Published: 22nd May 2020
After drama, threats and a long wait, Kerala students arrive back home in special train from Delhi
Around 700 passengers travelled in this train, which did not have air conditioning to reduce the risk of COVID transmission
It was probably a desperate wait. At one point, Kerala students who were studying in Delhi even threatened to walk thousands of kilometres home from the national capital if they weren't given a special train. But on Friday, hundreds of students came home to Kerala in a special shramik train that left Delhi on Wednesday evening.
Upon several requests by the students, on May 16, Kerala House, the official state mission of the Government of Kerala in New Delhi had informed the students that a special non-stop train from Delhi to Kerala will ply on Wednesday, May 20. Prior to this, around 300 students, who were on the verge of getting evicted from their hostels and rented accommodations had threatened to walk a distance of more than 2,600 kilometres to reach home.
Once on board, things were as smooth as could be. "There were around 700 people on the train. We were all tested by the government agencies for COVID prior to boarding the train and were dropped at the railway station by the DTC buses," says Akhil K, a student who travelled in the train. "It was a non-AC train as we had asked for and that was, in fact, an issue in this heat. However, at a time like this, this seemed like the best possible option," he says. Akhil also told us that even though the train did not have a pantry, the travellers were provided food on time.
The passengers in the previous Delhi-Kerala train had alleged that no social distancing norms were followed inside the compartments. We sought if the same was the case in this train too. Akhil says, "Initially, a few compartments were crowded, but later people had moved to the empty ones. In some of the compartments, all the seats were occupied."
Congress offered to pay for tickets
On the day of the journey, the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee had announced that it will reimburse the train ticket fare to all the students who were travelling by the train. "The DPCC had already informed the Kerala government that it will bear the travel cost for all the students. However, we did not receive a positive response," it said in a press release. The NSUI activists had circulated a google form among the travellers, asking the students who need financial assistance to fill it up along with their names and bank details.