Hundreds of stranded persons in Kohima waiting for their turn to return home in Nagaland on Monday Credit: EastMojo image

Kohima: As the state government has extended the period of inter-district movement for stranded persons, nearly a thousand people reported to the Kohima Local Ground on Monday morning with the hope to return to their hometown. However, preferences for passengers are given to those who have registered themselves at the facilitation centre prior to May 8.

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The state government extended the inter-district movement for three more days from May 11-13. In the first phase of the inter-district movement from May 7-9, a total of 7,409 passengers from across the state were sent off from 281 buses to the respective districts. The government then extended the inter-district movement for three more days for persons who have registered at the facilitation centres. The government said that stranded persons were reported from Kohima and Dimapur districts only.

Stranded persons awaiting their turns to board the public transport

Over 800 persons leave Kohima for Tuensang, Kiphire and Mon

Speaking with EastMojo on Monday morning, Lithrongla Tongpi Sangtam, Kohima ADC, said that 29 buses will be sent off on the first day out of which 14 buses with police escort will leave for Mon district, and eight buses to Tuensang district and seven buses to Kiphire district. The officer said that it is expected to cover over 800 passengers on the first day and the remaining 1,536 (approximately) passengers will be sent off to these three districts in the next two days.

She pointed out that there is requirement of more transportation facilities to transport the stranded persons to their respective districts. “We have transportation but the vehicles are not feasible to travel to the distant areas of Mon, Kiphire and Tuesnsang. But the ones that are available and in good condition, we are sending off,” she said.

“We have covered almost all districts except these three districts because of the lack of good transport facilities. Our requirement is also 38-40 seat buses but the available ones are 16-20 seats and that is another issue,” she added. She then requested all [tribal] unions of the various districts “to kindly bear” and “be patient” with the administration. She assured that those persons who have registered with the facilitation centre prior to May 8 will be transported to the respective districts.

She also clarified that it becomes the responsibility of the district receiving the stranded persons to facilitate the movements within the district once the passengers from Kohima are sent to the district headquarter. Besides the Nagaland State Transport (NST) buses, the district administration also hired private buses and school buses to facilitate the transportation of stranded persons in the district.

A section of the stranded persons gathered at Kohima local ground on Monday morning

Over 1,300 persons from Dimapur set out for the other districts

Vice president of Dimapur Naga Students’ Union, Sentimeren Pongen, told EastMojo that as on Monday noon, around 1,300 stranded persons were sent off from Dimapur to all the other districts. While the district administration allotted 21 buses, the student bodies have collectively arranged 23 buses to facilitate the transportation of stranded persons in the district, he informed.

He also expressed disappointment that with nearly 6,000 persons still stranded in Dimapur, transportation facilities are not adequately provided to facilitate the movements, and the deadline for which expires in three days.

Students in Tizit area under Mon district expressing gratitude to the transport minister for facilitating their return during the first phase of the inter-district movement

No assurance for a new fleet of public transport: Transport minister

When contacted, transport minister Paiwang Konyak said that all buses from the transport department have been handed to Sentiyanger Committee for the evacuation of stranded persons. While a budget allocation was made to procure “new fleet” for public transport, he said that no assurances can be made since the lockdown and the pandemic has affected the state’s economy drastically.

The minister added that he hired three buses to evacuate Tizit students who are stranded in Kohima and were sent off to Mon district on Monday from his residence in Kohima, with the intention to “lighten the burden of the government”. Earlier on May 8, the minister also hired seven buses, sending off stranded persons to Mon district.

The government has been providing free bus services for inter-district movements

Views of stranded persons returning home

As hundreds of stranded persons left the state capital to just three districts, Toshikhiung, a 23-year-old graduate from Pungro under Kiphire district, expressed dismay that direct bus services are not being sent to Pungro. He, however, acknowledged the administration for facilitating free bus services to the district headquarters.

With optimism, he said that the global pandemic requires all to jointly fight the virus, irrespective of societal class and status. He also suggested that the state government must comprehensively emphasis on the rural areas which requires more attention in terms of motor-able roads, education and health care system.

Twenty-seven-year-old K Chang, who is heading to Tuensang district, said that although he has been living in Kohima for the past few years, the pandemic has made it “difficult” due to the changing situation. “I want to go home and be safe and have quality time with family,” he expressed.

As 21-year-old Naoam Wangsa from Mon district awaited to board the bus, she reacted with a mixed feeling of excitement and doubt — if she will finally be able to make it to her hometown. “I have been stranded for the past two months and my parents are so worried about me,” she said.

The BA 4th semester student said that although she cannot be of much help, she wishes to help her parents back home in the little way possible and be with them during these difficult times. “We have never faced a pandemic like this before. It has taught us a life lesson to introspect on the way we are living our lives,” she said. Despite losing regular classes, she wishes to attend online classes and do self study when she reaches home.

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