Malda/Kharagpur/Kolkata: A Shramik Special train from Panvel in Maharashtra chugged into Malda Town station on Thursday afternoon and disgorged 540 passengers during its brief halt before speeding off towards New Jalpaiguri.
One of them, Ramjan Khan, ambled towards the kiosks where medical units were ready to conduct Covid tests on passengers. Happy to get back home, Ramjan said: “At least I can stay with my family members now.” Living in a cramped room at Solapur, Maharashtra for the past two months was a nightmare for him. Ramjan, of Chandpara under Pukuria police station, was jobless after the factory he was working in shut shop.
Since Tuesday night, trains from Maharashtra carrying stranded labourers have started reaching Malda. By Friday, 12 trains are scheduled to stop there and 9 of these will be from Maharashtra carrying nearly 12,000 people. As trains from Maharashtra, one of the worst affected states in India, have started arriving, fear has gripped locals both in Malda and Dinajpur of a faster spread of Covid-19 .
Malda has already recorded 131 positive cases and 6 fresh ones were reported on Wednesday. North Dinajpur has recorded more than 80 patients. All of them were returnees from other states.
The risk of a rising count has only increased as workers from badly affected states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat return. Keeping this in mind, the Bengal government had on Wednesday asked officials to conduct swab tests on anyone who showed some symptoms.
Ruhul Amin, a worker at the Jindal plant at Tambe in Maharashtra, was agreeable to tests. “It is better if we are tested here as I don’t want to infect my family members.”
Workers from Murshidabad and North and South Dinajpur too got down at Malda Town station. “All of them will be kept in institutional quarantine and each will be marked on the hand with a special sign so that they are identified easily,” said Malda district magistrate Rajarshi Mitra. Quarantine centres such as Malda Polytechnic College are ready to receive returnees.
Passengers from outside Malda were sent home by buses and advised institutional quarantine.
Since Wednesday, 12 trains carrying nearly 4,500 passengers have reached Kharagpur in West Midnapore. “These trains carried passengers mainly from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. They were given coupons after preliminary thermal checking. They will produce these coupons in their respective districts for further tests,” said Kazi Samsuddin Alam, additional SP of Kharagpur. The returnees from Maharashtra were advised institutional quarantine.
According to officials monitoring train movements to Bengal, as many as 21 Shramik Specials are scheduled to reach the state by Friday carrying nearly 31,500 passengers. Of the 21, 7 have reached destinations by Thursday evening and 11 are scheduled to arrive by Thursday midnight.