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Catching the special train for Nagaland: ‘We feel safe now’

By Menuse-O Max Khieya Updated: May 21, 2020 1:14 am
Stranded people from Nagaland being screened by the medical personnel on Tuesday evening, prior to their departure, at Chennai Central railway station in Tamil Nadu.

Menuose-O Max Khieya
Kohima, May 20 (EMN):
Around 1320 stranded people set off their journey onboard Shramik special train to Nagaland at around 11:30 pm on Tuesday night after they were screened by a team of medical personnel from Chennai Central railway station in Tamil Nadu.

Speaking to Eastern Mirror, president of the Naga Students’ Union Chennai (NSUC) Chibenthung Lotha said that “1320 stranded people from Nagaland in Tamil Nadu, mostly from Chennai had boarded the special train”.

He expressed gratitude to the government of Tamil Nadu and Nagaland, their nodal officers, communities of both the states, North East India Welfare Association Chennai (NEIWAC), all the volunteers and the media for their support towards the evacuation of the distressed Nagas.

According to him, the medical team of around 800 personnel examined each person and declared them fit for travelling. The medical team did not find influenza like Covid-19 symptoms, he informed. “No one, who came to Central railway station, was left behind by the medical team,” he added.

The medical check-up for the returnees began on Monday (May 18), a day ahead of their departure, wherein about 400 people were screened at Community Hall Amaindhakarai, Chennai.

“Stranded people from other districts were screened in their own district and the rest from Chennai were screened at the Central railway station,” Lotha informed.

With majority being from Chennai, other returnees who boarded the special train were from districts like Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Chengalpattu, Vellore, Cuddalore and Puducherry (Union Territory).

On reaching Nagaland, the returnees bound for the 11 districts – Dimapur, Kohima, Mokokchung, Wokha, Zunheboto, Phek, Tuensang, Mon, Peren, Kiphire and Longleng – will proceed to government quarantine centres.

The president of NSUC said that the returnees were ‘so excited on catching the special train for home’.

An overwhelmed Lotha shared that he was teary-eyed at the sight of ‘seeing the joy and smiles of the faces of those who left for Nagaland’.

The authorities told the returnees to reach the Central railway station by 4 pm, hours before the departure, but it was learned that many people reached the venue by early morning.

Lotha said that “the recovery rate of Covid-19 in Chennai is good” but there were several instances of people being asked to vacate their rooms for failing to pay house rent. “Many of them were scared to die of hunger than coronavirus (sic),” he said.

The stranded people included pregnant women, patients and students who were in dilemma due to financial crisis. “There are also many other cases; I don’t know which one is worse,” he shared, adding that there were instances where stranded people were rescued by the police in the streets.

Lotha maintained that ‘no other situation in the future would ever match the hardships faced by the citizens of Nagaland outside the state’ like what was witnessed in the early period of the lockdown. He said that he has received around 260 distress calls till date.

With the state finally bringing back stranded people home, he expressed optimism saying that most of the people in Nagaland have understood how ‘vulnerable it is to live outside” during this crisis.

Home Commissioner Abhijit Sinha has informed in an update that the special train ferrying the stranded people of Nagaland is expected to arrive in Dimapur railway station at around 1 pm on May 22.

What returnees have to say

Eastern Mirror also reached out to some of the returnees onboard Shramik special train and asked them how they felt to be finally going home.

“To be honest, those long awaited days to return back home got over,” Kalivi Zhimomi, a teacher at a private school in Chennai said over the phone. However, she had mixed feelings owing to the current situation.

When asked how she felt about the mandatory period of 14 days quarantine at government designated centres followed by as many days of self isolation at home, Zhimomi said that she would adhere to the protocol and norms of the confinement arranged by the state.

“All we expect as of now is to reach home safe and sound,” she said, adding that she wasn’t worried of “the quarantine days, since we’ll be following the protocols for good”.

“It’s not like we’ll be creating some havoc going against the norms. Expecting this at least from everyone,” the teacher shared.

Thronglikyu Sangtam, a hairdresser at a salon in Chennai, shared that the onward journey to Nagaland was “not good but no options” for him as he felt he needed to earn.

“I don’t want to go home. I need some money,” said Sangtam. He said that he earned about INR 25,000 monthly in Chennai and wondered if he could get similar job offer in Nagaland.

Solo Yim, who is an assistant manager at a company in Chennai, acknowledged NSUC, the government and the people of Nagaland for extending help and support to the stranded people.

Yim, who is traveling with his wife to Nagaland, said that for the first time, they felt “comfortable to travel either by train or flight”.

“We feel safe now,” said Itamzeule Hennei, who works at a restaurant in Chennai. Her friends, who were travelling in the same compartment, also said that they feel secured and comfortable.

By Menuse-O Max Khieya Updated: May 21, 2020 1:14:00 am