WB govt steps in, Assam people stranded at Howrah station now

homeward-bound Kolkata, Mar 26 (PTI) Hundreds of people, stranded in transit at the Howrah station here owing to suspension of passenger train services during lockdown, have been transported by bus by the West Bengal government on way to their respective destinations, state Transport Secretary N S Nigam said here on Thursday.

Most of these people, who had been outside the station building since Saturday midnight, had a harrowing time spending the nights in the open and desperately seeking avenues to return home, before the state authorities came to their rescue.

Eastern Railway authorities claimed that the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel provided security to them as also with food before they were ferried to their respective destinations by bus by the state government.

The Railways had suspended train services, except for some suburban trains, on Sunday owing to the 'Janta Curfew' announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It then announced the suspension of all passenger trains from Sunday midnight in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

'There is no stranded passenger at Howrah station at present. They have been transported away by the state government in its buses,' ER spokesperson Nikhil Chakraborty said.

Most of these stranded people were from Assam and were working in different parts of the country. They were travelling back to their native places following the lockdown that came into force in different states since last week, when they were caught in the shutdown after reaching Howrah.

'A major chunk of these people are from Assam. They are poor people, we fed them and their travel have been ensured free of cost by our government,' the state transport secretary told PTI.

The West Bengal government started taking them to Assam border in buses since Monday and handing them over to the authorities of the neighbouring state.

He said the local authorities at a border district in Assam took a lot of time in giving clearance for the entry of these stranded people, following which the issue was taken up with the top level of the government and the matter was resolved.

Nigam said these people were stranded at the Assam border for two days after reaching there from Howrah by bus, before they were taken in by the neighbouring state on Wednesday.

Their food and shelter requirements were taken care of by the West Bengal government during the period, he said.

Another 250 people were scheduled to reach the Assam border at Baxirhat in Coochebehar district of West Bengal by Thursday night, he said.

'We have taken care of these people as required, on humanitarian ground,' Nigam said.

The state transport secretary said his counterpart in the Assam government has been requested to make arrangements for their onward travel to their respective places from the border after conducting health check-up.

Many others who are also stranded at Howrah station belong to West Bengal and arrangements were made to take them home, a transport official said. PTI AMR NN NN