Scores of people, who arrived here on the first batch of trains since the partial resumption of railway services amid the novel coronavirus-induced lockdown, were on Wednesday left stranded on roads outside the railway station with no transport available for onward journeys.
Special trains from Ahmedabad, Patna, Mumbai and Howrah reached the New Delhi Railway Station before 9 am on Wednesday.
The Indian Railways resumed passenger train operations from May 12, initially with 15 pairs of trains, weeks after these were suspended due to the lockdown.
Railway authorities said all passengers were compulsorily screened and given hand sanitisers at entry and exit points, and in trains.
Though the train journey remained smooth for most of the passengers, their excitement to reach home disappeared as they stepped out of the station premises.
The norms of social distancing went for a toss as hundreds gathered in the limited space outside the station, even as police personnel were seen making announcements in this regard using speakers fitted on motorcycles and cars.
There was no bus, cab or any other transport option available for onward journeys.
Many passengers carrying heavy luggage stood clueless outside the railway station, while some tried to convince local cab drivers to take them home in various states.
Later in the evening, the Delhi Police said the stranded passengers can now avail Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses for their onward journey from the station.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Railways) Harendra K Singh said they made elaborate arrangements in close coordination with railway authorities to ensure passengers experience no inconvenience while travelling but at the same time follow the guidelines issued to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“For the passengers boarding trains, a dedicated corridor was made on the Paharganj side where people queued up, all wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. After thermal scanning, they boarded the trains. Sanitiser dispensers were placed at prominent places for the passengers,” Singh said.
The DTC is yet to take a final call on resuming public transport which has been functioning partially since the lockdown came into force.
“We can give you Rs 6,000 maximum if you take us to Roorkee (a distance of about 200 km),” a man said to a driver who reached the station to pick up a family which had already booked his taxi.
Another man was seen asking a rickshaw-puller to take him to Anand Vihar.
Vishnu, 24, who boarded a train from Sabarmati along with his wife and three-year-old boy, said he gave Rs 1,800 to a tempo driver to reach the Ahmedabad station.
“My brother-in-law booked the ticket for us for Rs 1,750. We have to go to Ravi Nagar in West Delhi, but the family doesn’t have a vehicle at home,” he said.
Ratnakar, a resident of Uttam Nagar, who had gone to his village in Bihar’s Begusarai district, said he had no clue about the non-availability of public transport in Delhi.
His father, who is in his 60s, said if they start walking, they would reach home by evening.
“Why have they started running trains when there is no bus or metro available? We had no clue that there will be no public transport whatsoever in Delhi,” he said.
Aviral Mathur, who reached here on the first train from Ahmedabad, said the Delhi government should have at least run a few buses for passengers travelling on special trains.
“A private taxi seems highly unlikely and even if you get one, they have been charging exorbitantly,” he added.
Md. Taufiq Alam, 26, who arrived from Mumbai, said it is disappointing that the Centre or the Delhi government did not think about those who have to travel to their hometown from the national capital.
“An advisory could have been issued informing people that no transport will be available from Delhi,” Alam said, as he put his heavy bag down on the road.
A few women were seen asking policemen to help them get water for their children.
“There is no arrangement of water, food or toilet for people who are still to cover hundreds of kilometers before they reach their home,” Siraj Ali, a carpenter who returned from Mumbai, said.
Ali and his two friends are already discussing their options if they fail to get an auto-rickshaw or some ‘jugaad’ to reach home in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly.
“In Delhi, now, the footpath will be our home till bus or train service for Bareilly resumes,” Ali said.
A group of 14 men who worked at a hotel in Jaipur were among those scrambling for transport.
Ashok Tamta, 22, from Khatima in Uttarakhand said they have no clue as to how they will reach their home.
Tamta, who was to get married on April 8, said the Jaipur hotel where he worked closed leaving them jobless.
His friend and co-worker Deepak Kumar from Pithoragarh said they will sleep on the roads and walk to their home state if they don’t get any transport.
A group of three men from Chennai, who worked in Jaipur, were also among those who were waiting outside the station. The connecting train to their was supposed to depart at 4 pm.
Furkaan, 26, said there was no option but to wait outside on the road. The only relief is that the weather is cloudy.
His friend Gilani, 26, said they had dinner last night and that there was no food left with them.
“It’s going to be hard…but what’s assuring is that we will reach our home,” he said.