In desperate bid to leave, migrant workers form queues at Palace Grounds from 3am | Bengaluru News – Times of India


Migrant workers with bags and baggage at Palace Grounds on Sunday

BENGALURU: Penniless, homeless and jobless, thousands of migrant workers stranded in Bengaluru are thronging Palace Grounds as early as 3am, hoping to land a berth on board a Shramik special train.
Palace Grounds is the first stop for migrant labourers, where they are screened for symptoms and their documents verified. They are then put on BMTC buses which ferry them to stations like Malur and Chikkabanavara from where Shramik special trains depart.
But train tickets are not issued on a first-come-first-served basis. Passengers for these trains are chosen in advance by multiple agencies including city police and officials of the Seva Sindhu portal. Workers have to register with the portal in advance, sources familiar with evacuation operations said.
Volunteers helping migrant workers at Palace Grounds say a majority who get to the venue do not have a ticket. They land up at the venue after learning about the train schedule from a friend of a statemate. Information on trains is passed on by word of mouth or phone messages. Most land up at Palace Grounds in a desperate bid to get home.
Dhruv Jatti, a volunteer, said, “When one person gets a message that his ticket is confirmed, he assumes everyone else is going as well and forwards it to his friends and family from his state. All those who receive the message land up at Palace Grounds, hoping to go back.”
Volunteers say at least 5,500 migrants flock to Palace Grounds every day – more than four times the capacity of a Shramik special train. This means only a fraction get a berth.
Sohan Singh from Rajasthan who worked in a garment industry in Bengaluru for over five years said, “I have been standing in this queue since 5.30am. Police keep changing their instructions every now and then. Nobody gives us concrete information, but I haven’t given up. In any case, I have nowhere to stay or work. I have to feed my wife and three children. All I want to do at this point is to go back home to Jodhpur and be with the rest of my family.”
Pratap Pradhan from Odhisha had a similar story to tell. “I have been working in Bengaluru for about eight months now. I’ve already left my room and I have nowhere to go. A train to Odisha left two days ago. Someone here told me that the next train is in two days and I hope I get a ticket,” Pradhan said.
Gurshankar Sharma, who worked with a marble dealer in Bengaluru, said, “I have been in Bengaluru for over six years now. My brothers and I work here, while our wives and children are back in Rajasthan. Once all this settles, we will consider returning to Bengaluru and working here.”
Police say many migrants are not familiar with the local language and they have a tough time enforcing social distancing norms. Volunteers hand out bottles of water, bread, buns and bananas at regular intervals to those standing in long queues. Dhruv said there have been instances of volunteers pooling money for ticket fares of some migrants.
Dev Bhagat, another volunteer, said, “Many employers of these labourers have provided them with accommodation. Some have blatantly told them not to come back if they leave, but many want to be with their families during these difficult times. Now they do not have a place to stay or work. Their plight is very sad.”

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Sagar Biswas

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