Covid-19: How Pune handled the return of labourers, families from Bihar

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Pune: Akbar Ali, a construction worker from Bihar, heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday early morning after he reached Pune from Danapur by a special train, which resumed its daily operations from June 5.

“I had gone to Patna around 25 days ago by a private tourist bus amid the easing of nationwide lockdown restrictions, which were imposed from March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak. However, I soon realised that it’d be difficult to survive in my native village without any income. There’s neither any job nor any regular source of income in Bihar. I had no option but to return to my construction site at Baner,” said Ali, who reached Pune along with 750 of his co-passengers from Bihar at around 5:30 am on Wednesday.

Rohit Gupta, one of Ali’s co-passengers on the train and a Danapur resident, returned to Pune on Wednesday early morning along with four of his friends.

“We had gone to our native place before the lockdown restrictions were announced. We faced a severe financial crisis back home, as there was no work in Bihar. We booked tickets immediately after the train service resumed and decided to return to Pune. We can only support our families, if we’ve our regular source of income,” Gupta said.

The Pune district administration, along with Maharashtra health department; Railway Protection Force (RPF); Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) transport department; Regional Transport Office (RTO), Pune; Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML); and PMC health department officials were on their toes with all precautionary measures against Covid-19 before the train arrived at the station. Three ambulances were also kept on standby by the PMC health department authorities.

After the train chugged into the platform, passengers disembarked and were made to stand in a queue on a new Foot Over Bridge (FOB) towards the station’s second entry gate near Rajabahadur Mill Road while maintaining proper social distancing norms.

All passengers went through the thermal screening, their tickets and other documents checked and they were stamped on their hands for the mandatory 14-day home quarantine.

PMC transport department and RTO officials were at hand to guide each passenger to travel to h/her desired destination.

The transport authorities had arranged a free bus service on 10 different routes in Pune and adjoining Pimpri-Chinchwad.

Passengers also had the option of availing of auto-rickshaws and private taxis that were waiting for them at the station’s parking lot.

“PMC transport department authorities and RPF personnel provided assistance to us to help the passengers to leave for their respective destinations. We ensured that no passenger faced any kind of inconvenience in availing of transport facilities,” said Ravindra Rathod, assistant inspector, RTO.

The Danapur-Pune special train service started its daily operations since June 5, and is carrying up to 1,000 passengers, most of whom are labourers, who work in sites located in and around Pune district.

Over 7,000 people have returned to Pune since the special train service resumed its daily operations on June 5, railway authorities said.

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