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Best Bengal: Meet these real life heroes in uniform who turned guardian angel for migrant workers

The cataclysmic impact of COVID-19 taught us many lessons.  2020 has been really a challenging period for individuals and administrative alike. With thousands of migrant workers returning home from big cities post lockdown, the administrative workforce of the country was faced with an uphill task of monitoring their arrival and movement to ensure Coronavirus protocols of institutional and home quarantine.

The Optimist News reached to the Sukanta Karmakar, Inspector-in-Charge (IC) of Howrah Railway Station, Traffic Guard under Howrah city Police, who was in charge of handling train load of home bound migrants.

Sukanta Karmakar, Inspector-in-Charge (IC) of Howrah Railway Station, Traffic Guard under Howrah city Police

Dealing with the issue migrant laborers

Serving as a traffic inspector at the Kolkata Airport under Bidhannagar Police, Karmakar was later transferred to Howrah. Speaking on the issue, he says, “Howrah station handles huge traffic. According to government statistics prior to pandemic, around 11 to 13 lac footfalls were counted every day. Apart from pedestrians, bus, ferry services and prepaid taxi passengers, and daily commuters contribute to the traffic of Howrah station.”

“On May 12, 2020, the first Sromik special train reached Howrah station, following which the number of trains increased. The challenge this incident posed to the entire administration including GRP, RPF, district health and all others is that these trains were full of migrant workers along with their family members and belongings. Abiding COVID-19 protocols for all of them and sending them back home safely – was a Herculean task for us. Once they reached the Howrah Station, we arranged for free bus rides from the Government of West Bengal’s transport department. These buses were sent from South 24 parganas to North Bengal, and also in many cases to neighboring states like Bihar, Assam and Tripura. Because, apart from Howrah station no other Sromik special trains were allowed in the eastern zone of India,” further informs the cop.

Queue of migrant workers at the Howrah Railway Station

Issues of hospitality

“Apart from sending these workers homes, the other imposing challenge was to provide proper hospitality to them. Even if they had money, there were not enough stores open to provide them food. We arranged for food and water, not only for scheduled trains, but for unscheduled trains that used to reach at the station during midnight or at the wee hours of night. Many NGOs from Kolkata and other neighboring areas also came forward in support for providing food to these migrant labourers. After a month, certain trains were allowed to extend so that after dropping some of the passengers at Howrah station, they went to different districts including Murshidabad in the northern eastern boundary of West Bengal and Cooch Behar in the north,” notifies the frontline warrior.

The Frontline Warriors taking care of the entire process of sending returnee migrants safely to their homes

Battling the Inhibition:

“In the beginning, many senior officers with existing health conditions found it tough to provide service during this pandemic. But as situations demanded mass intervention, irrespective of age and ailment, we found the support of the entire team and fortunately none of my team members got affected with Covid-19 till August, 2020. It was a time of battling the underlying fear and inhibition and overcoming the challenge at hand. I am thankful to the entire team of Howrah Railway Station Traffic Guard, CP, DCP Traffic, DCP North and DCP Headquarters, Railway Health Department, Golabari Thana and Civil Administration for their continuous support throughout these trying times,” signs off officer Karmakar. 

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