For the hundreds of travellers who arrived on a train from New Delhi, it was confusion, disappointment and despair when they alighted at KSR Bengaluru city railway station. A few hundred staged a protest that lasted more than nine hours after authorities insisted they had to go into paid institutional quarantine for 14 days.
The New Delhi- Bengaluru one way superfast express special (train no. 02492) had left Delhi at 9:15pm on Tuesday and was scheduled to arrive at KSR at 6.40am on Thursday, but eventually chugged in at 7:18am.
In all, 543 passengers from New Delhi and places en route – Jhansi, Bhopal, Nagpur, Secunderabad, Guntakal and Anantpur – were onboard. Faced with the demand that they head to institutional quarantine, nearly 200 passengers staged a flash protest on platform No.1 till the evening.
Slogans of “home quarantine” rent the air and social distancing norms were thrown to the wind. They said they were informed about the new rule only after they boarded the train in Delhi. Those who agreed to go into institutional quarantine were taken to hotels and marriage halls in BMTC buses.
Passengers, who had little or no food or water during the journey, slammed the government for not informing them in advance about the new policy. Many pleaded with authorities to let them go home as they did not have the money to pay for hotels. However, authorities, who had no choice but to implement the government decision, said there were free quarantine facilities and they could go there.
Rambabu Singh, a passenger from Nagpur, said: “I wasn’t told institutional quarantine is mandatory. I thought it is only for those with symptoms, but now they are asking all of us to go to hotels for which we have to pay. Where is the money? They should show some mercy at this difficult time.”
And in another affront, BMTC also charged passengers Rs 50 per head to ferry them from the station to institutional quarantine and Rs 100 to facilities outside the city. Brajesh Mishra, who arrived from Bhopal, said: “My daughter-in-law is pregnant and in hospital. We would not have come had we known of the rule. There was no food or water on the train and we are completely exhausted. They should not make us suffer like this.”
However, law minister JC Madhuswamy said: “It is a well thought-out decision. People coming from other states will have to compulsorily undergo institutional quarantine. There will be no change in this.” S Suresh Kumar, Karnataka’s Covid-19 spokesperson, said “Announcements were made at railway stations in Delhi that all those bound for Bengaluru will have to undergo institutional quarantine. Some passengers cancelled tickets at the last minute and those on the waiting list boarded the train.”
South Western Railway also released screenshots of SMSes and website alerts on the new rule which they said were sent to passengers before they boarded the train. “We have reserved rooms in 90 hotels. Those who want to stay will have to bear the cost,” said a BBMP official at the station.
“Delhi-KSR Bengaluru train that arrived Bengaluru on Thursday morning had 543 passengers, as confirmed from Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Out of these 543 persons, about 20 were on transit to other states and left by road to Kerala and Tamil Nadu” the Indian Railways said in a statement.
The special train from New Delhi to Bengaluru, (Train No. 02492) had arrived on Thursday morning at the KSR Bengaluru City railway station. “A section of passengers ranging about 140 were reluctant for institutionalised quarantine and were protesting against the same. After persuasion and discussion by senior officers of State Government, Police and Railways, majority of them have proceeded to said quarantine,” it said.
Nineteen passengers were sent back to the national capital after they created a ruckus protesting institutional quarantine. The Railways said “19 of them preferred to go back to Delhi which was facilitated by Railways at very short notice by attaching extra coach in a train to Delhi on Thursday.”