Bengaluru, May 10 (IANS) A special train with 985 Kashmiri students, stranded for 47 days in Karnataka due to the lockdown, left Bengaluru for Udhampur in the Union Territory of J&K, said an official here on Sunday.
“The special train (#06587) left Chikbanawar station in the city’s eastern suburb with 985 passengers at 12.30 p.m. for Udhampur under the police escort,” a South Western Railway (SWR) official told IANS.
Udhampur is around 200 km south of Srinagar and 65 km north of Jammu. Most students are pursuing degree courses in nursing, physiotherapy, engineering and medicine in Karnataka colleges.
“As per the standard operating procedure, the Kashmiri students, who registered with the J&K government to travel by the special train, were brought to the station in 40 special buses from K.R. Puram in Bengaluru east where they assembled earlier in the day as directed,” the official said.
Though the train was scheduled to leave at 11 a.m, screening and boarding delayed departure by 90 minutes. All students were screened at the station with a thermal device and given a medical certificate, indicating they were free from coronavirus symptoms.
“The special train has been arranged from Bengaluru to help the J&K students reach their homes,” tweeted the zonal railway.
Details of passengers, coach-wise with their address and mobile numbers were collected for contact tracing. Only 54 passengers were allowed in each coach to ensure physical distancing during the journey. Wearing mask and sanitizing hands are mandatory,” said the official.
Each passenger was given food packet, comprising 8 chapati, pickle, 2 water bottles of 1 litre each, dates, cookies and buttermilk for the initial journey. The zonal railways will serve food to them en-route. A Railway Protection Force (RPF) team is escorting the train.
“I won’t say we were stuck in Bengaluru. I am a B.Sc nursing student from Kashmir. I am thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his help. I am also thankful to the government and the Bengaluru police, as they helped us in leaving for Kashmir,” said one of passenger in a video clip posted on the social media, as the special train chugged out of the city.
Sharing the nursing student’s video clip, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted, “Railways spreads joy. Watch the enthusiasm of a student excited to be going home from Bengaluru to Udhampur in J&K. She is grateful to PM @NarendraModiji for facilitating her journey home.”
Though a separate service to Kashmir was not in the list of special trains, the J&K government made a special request Karnataka to arrange a train for students from Bengaluru, a state nodal officer told IANS.
“We are relieved and happy to go home. We were waiting for this day. Our prayers have been answered. We will celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr with family and friends at home,” another student told a local news channel before the train left the station.
“As the J&K government is arranging special trains from other cities too, it has agreed to pay for tickets to the railways,” said the state official.
On reaching Udhampur by Monday night or early Tuesday, the students will again be checked/screened for body temperature at the station and sent to their town/village in chartered buses to stay home for the next 14 days.
“We told the students at a briefing before they boarded the train that they will be sent to institutional quarantine for 21 days if they violate the lockdown norms in their home town,” said the official.