Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 4
The suspension of rail services has come as a financial jolt to the city’s migrant labourers who are now spending about four times the usual fare to travel back home this festive season. While some are heading to Ambala Railway Station, the others have dropped the idea of visiting their villages because of the pandemic and lack of funds. A few labourers have taken to roadways even as the threat of pandemic looms large.
Sarnam, 40, who hails from Sitapur in Lucknow, had to spend Rs 1,000 on a bus ticket to visit his family. A daily wager, he only makes some Rs 8,000 a month. “I had to settle some bills at home as my only nephew is getting married. For a one-way journey, I spent Rs 1,000. I wanted to book a train because it’s cheaper, but it has been cancelled for a month now. I had no other option,” he said. A second-class ticket for a train from Chandigarh to Lucknow, UP, costs Rs 250 and Rs 350 to Patna in Bihar.
When contacted, the owner of a city-based private bus service, said: “We are already suffering losses because our school buses aren’t running. The business has suffered since the lockdown was clamped and this is our only chance to recover from the losses.”
Interestingly, the number of passengers travelling from Ambala Railway Station increased drastically in October. According to the data acquired from the Ambala Division, around 1.4 lakh passengers boarded trains to various places from Ambala. A month later, the figure shot up to about 20 lakh passengers. In October, a total of 12 pairs of trains plied from the station of which five leave for Bihar and UP. A source from the division shared: “The division was to run 23 pairs of special trains in the festive season, but all of them were postponed till November 4.”
Malti, also a daily wager, who left for UP via train to attend to her ailing mother, said: “I had to spend extra on the bus fare from Chandigarh to Ambala and then to go to the station. It must have cost me Rs100. I’ll also have to spend on the bus to my village from Lucknow. I am scared to travel via too many vehicles because of the pandemic. To save money, I chose to travel alone. Usually, at this time of the year, my entire family visits the village, but things are different this year.”
The second-class train ticket from Ambala to Patna and Lucknow costs Rs 345 and Rs 230 respectively. Last year, Ambala Railway Station ferried about 58 lakh passengers in October, as informed by the office of the DCM, Ambala Division.
Approx 44 pairs of trains would have been fully running in this division in October, but of them, 24 pairs of trains are fully cancelled and the rest of 20 pairs are short-terminated/originated at Ambala Cantt and Saharanpur. DCM Hari Mohan said: “This has caused tremendous inconvenience to travellers in festive times as Diwali, Chhat Puja and Gurpurb are to be celebrated in the coming one month. East-bound passengers are badly stuck in Punjab as no passenger train is operating in the state due to farmers’ agitation at stations/tracks.”