Hundreds of migrant workers and students, stranded amid the nationwide lockdown to control the rapidly-spreading Covid-19, on Saturday boarded special trains and buses to return home. The government had initially allowed inter-state travel only by road but arranged for the trains after requests from several states.

The Opposition had also pointed out that road transport alone was not enough to carry lakhs of migrant workers home and had raised concerns about social distancing in crowded buses.

The first special train for Uttar Pradesh, carrying over 800 migrant workers, started from Maharashtra’s Nashik on Saturday morning, ANI reported, quoting the state’s Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi. The workers are scheduled to reach Lucknow on Sunday morning.

Another train carrying 1,200 migrant labourers arrived at Patna station. District Magistrate Kumar Ravi said that workers will be screened for Covid-19 before being sent to their native places.

Around 1,100 migrant workers left for their home states from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram Police Commissioner Balramkumar Upadhyaya said that authorities were taking all necessary precautions and getting help from the police. Two trains will also run from Kochi, according to NDTV.

Forty buses sent by the Delhi government reached Rajasthan’s Kota city on Saturday morning to bring back stranded students. Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said that each bus will carry not more than 20 students. “The students will be screened at the time of departure and arrival,” he added.

The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation said that it will run around 100 buses depending on the migrant labourers turning up at the bus station in Bengaluru. “Our bus passenger capacity is 55 but we operating with 30 passengers only after health checkups,” the state transporter’s central traffic manager said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had on Friday afternoon allowed movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and “other persons” by special ‘Sharmik’ trains to be operated by the Railways amid the nationwide lockdown. The first special train carrying 1,200 migrants left from Telangana for Hatia in Jharkhand the same day.

Struggling to make ends meet amid the lockdown, lakhs of migrant workers have demanded permission to go back to their hometowns. Many have attempted to travel home on foot, but have been stopped due to the closure of state borders. Some have died on the way.

The Centre has extended the nationwide lockdown for two more weeks from May 4. Travel by air, rail, metro and inter-state movement by road – except for stranded workers and students – is still banned. The number of coronavirus cases in India has risen to 37,336, according to the health ministry’s Saturday morning update. Covid-19 has killed 1,218 people in the country.

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