Mumbai: There were chaotic scenes outside Bandra Terminus yet again on Tuesday morning, as a huge crowd of over 2,200 migrant workers converged outside, jostling each other and ignoring social distancing norms, in their frenzy to board a Shramik Special train to Purnia, Bihar.
The crowd was, however, dispersed by police after calming them down, and a total of 1,800 workers were dispatched to Bihar in the special train originating from Bandra Terminus at noon.
On learning about the train on Monday, migrants staying at Nirmal Nagar in Bandra (East) called up others. Within a couple of hours, over a thousand of them from neighbouring areas like Chembur, Dharavi, Sion and Mahim were camping outside Bandra Terminus.
This was at midnight; they slept in the open, hoping to board the train on Tuesday morning. However, only those workers who had registered themselves beforehand were given that privilege.
At around 9 am on Tuesday, when the empty rake arrived, there was a scramble to board it, leading to a commotion. But, as per protocol, after proper thermal screening was compete and once names were matched with the list of registered passengers, they were allowed to board.
A few additional compartments were also added to the rake, which helped accommodate 400 extra workers; packed to capacity, the train eventually left with 1,700 workers at noon. Commenting on the commotion, Girish Pillai, divisional railway manager, WR, said: “The chaos was due to the thermal screening procedures; but all necessary steps were taken by the Mumbai and the Railway Police to handle the crowd,” he said.
While sources said police resorted to a mild lathi charge to disperse the crowd, and that some migrants resorted to stone pelting briefly, this was categorically denied by Manjunath Singe, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 8). "There was a slight commotion, but the crowd was dispersed without any us of force, and only megaphone and speakers were used," DCP Singe said.
Ravindra Bhakar, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of the Western Railway, said, "Many people who were not registered and not called by the state authorities had gathered near the station.’’ Similarly, on May 18, many migrants had thronged the Bandra Terminus after they heard rumours that the Western Railway was running a special train for Howrah.
“Currently there are no special trains for Howrah from Mumbai, so migrants should not believe any such rumours and should coordinate with the local police before stepping out of their homes,” said a railway official.
On April 14, the police were forced to resort to a lathi charge to disperse over 1,000 migrant workers who had ignored lockdown norms and gathered outside Bandra railway station demanding that they be allowed to return to their native villages and towns.