When the second wave of Covid-19 hit India in April, the government had to open the railways to bring people home without ever spreading the virus across the country.
Faced with the second wave of Covid-19, India has imposed tough restrictions, leaving many people out of jobs, threatening food security. Many workers left the city to return to their hometown.
Public transportation is banned, some people walk hundreds of kilometers back to their homeland, where living costs are cheap and supported by their families. The flow of people on the move has turned into a humanitarian disaster. Many people died along the way, from thirst, heat, hunger and exhaustion.
The pressure has forced Prime Minister Modi to open the railway door to bring people back home on Shramik trains. In total, the government organized 4,621 trips, handling more than 6 million repatriates.
Many experts have criticized the Indian government for belittling migrant workers, who suddenly have no job, no income, and no support network in their cities. The government’s Covid-19 taskforce lacks immigration specialists and is barely representative of the general population. Out of the 21 members, only two are women, and the rest are upper-class males. Harsh Vardhan, India’s Health Minister, said the member of the special forces was chosen because of “intellectual abilities”.
Under the terrible heat, thousands of migrant workers, the mainstay of Surat’s economy, frantically left.
Rabindra and Prafulla Behera, brothers who are textile workers, are among the tens of millions of migrant workers stranded, with no jobs or food. In the end, they decided to board the train to return home.
Ganjam, the lush countryside on the Bay of Bengal, home to the Behera brothers. It is a conservative locality, with few jobs, most of the people flock to the city to make a living. Upon hearing the news of their return, the villagers planned to pick them up.
Ganjam officials rushed to convert hundreds of schools into quarantine centers, form a support force of 10,000 and adjust the freight train station to handle special return trains.