“We are in a hapless situation. It has become a long, arduous journey in hot weather. We hoped to reach in 28 hours, as per schedule, but it’s been four days now,” said Chembur resident Birendra Singh in the afternoon, when the train was yet to reach Basti, his native place. “This train was to go to Basti via Itarsi, Bhopal, Jhansi, Kanpur and Lucknow. But we have been taken via Agra, Gwalior, Haryana, Rajasthan and Ghaziabad. We crossed the UP border through Delhi and from there reached Lucknow.”
Railway Board chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav said on Saturday, “Nearly 80% Shramik Special trains are terminating in UP and Bihar. This has resulted in congestion on the direct routes, necessitating diversions.” Railway officials say congestion at terminals, too, is to blame for the delays and diversions.
Passengers of the LTT-Basti train claimed they were given food and water only once after the train left LTT. “We are on our own. Fortunately, wherever our train halted between stations, villagers were kind enough to give us drinking water,” Singh told TOI on phone while the train was running.
When TOI spoke to another passenger, Naseem Ali, a while later, he said, “At times, the train is halting in forests for hours on end. What can you find in a forest? There’s very little food with us. We buy food from stalls if the train stops at a station (an unscheduled halt), but that is rare. Also, not many of us can afford to buy food for so many days.” Ali, who lives at Cheeta Camp, said at the time, “There are children on the train, who are feeling restless. We haven’t had a bath in this weather for days.”