A special train with 985 Kashmiri students, studying in Karnataka, left Bengaluru to Udhampur in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir after being stranded for over 47 days in the southern state due to the extended lockdown, an official said on Sunday.
"The students' special train left Chikbanawar station in the city's eastern suburb with 985 passengers at 12:30 p.m. to Udhampur in Kashmir under police escort," a South Western Railway (SWR) official told.
Udhampur is about 200km south of Srinagar and 65km north of Jammu in the northern border state. "As per the standard operating procedure, the Kashmiri students, who registered with the state government to travel by the special train, were brought to the station in special buses from KR Puram in Bengaluru east where they assembled earlier in the day as directed.
Though the train was scheduled to leave at 11:00 am., screening and boarding by passengers delayed its departure by 90 minutes. The passengers 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 Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) students reach their home," tweeted the zonal railway. Details of passengers, coach-wise with their address and mobile numbers were also collected from them for contact tracing.
54 passengers were allowed in each coach
"Only 54 passengers were allowed in each coach to ensure physical distancing during the journey. Wearing a mask and sanitizing hands were mandatory for their welfare," said the official. Each passenger was given food packet consisting of 8 chapathi, pickle, 2 water bottles of 1 litre, date, cookies and buttermilk for the initial journey.
The zonal railways will also serve food to the passengers en-route, as the train is from point to point and will not stop at in-between stations. A Railway Protection Force (RPF) team is escorting the special train.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) permitted stranded people, including migrant labourers, workers, students, tourists and pilgrims to return to their native place in other states in special trains from across the country since May 1.
Thousands of migrant workers, students, tourists, pilgrims from other states were stranded in cities and towns across Karnataka, with a majority of them in this tech city since the lockdown was enforced on March 25 and extended twice on April 15 and May 4 up to May 17 to contain the coronavirus spread.