Meanwhile, Western Railway Spokesperson Ravindra Bhakar in a statement said, "It is to inform that Vasai Road-Gorakhpur Shramik Special train which departed on May 21 was to run on Kalyan-Jalgoan-Bhusaval-Khandwa-Itarsi-Jabalpur-Manikpur route but this train will go to Gorakhpur by diverted route via Bilaspur (SECR), Jharsuguda, Rourkela, Adra, Asansol (ER) due to heavy traffic congestion on existing routes."
"Due to heavy congestion on Itarsi-Jabalpur-Pt. Deen Dayal Nagar route in view of running of large numbers of Shramik Special trains, It is decided by the Railway Board to run the trains originating from Vasai Road, Udhna, Surat, Valsad, Ankleshwar of WR, Konkan Railway and some stations of CR temporarily on diverted route via Bilaspur - Jharsugda - Raurkela," he said.
It is for the first time in the history of railway operations in India that the route of a moving train was changed without informing the passengers.
The passengers also alleged that the railways even did not inform them about the change in the route and the duration of their travel.
A passenger in the Shramik Special took to Twitter on Friday and wrote, "We have boarded the Shramik Special train on May 21 to go back to Gorakhpur. However, despite 23 hours of journey we are still in Maharashtra. We don't have anything to eat and there is no water in the train. And why the train is going towards Nagpur from Bhusawal."
Another passenger in the video message said, "Now the train has been stopped in Odisha and people are saying that the driver has lost his way."
Speaking about the confusion, a senior railway ministry official said: "There must have some operational compulsion of these diversions. The Railways has been operationalising things at a time when conditions are really challenging. Movement and converging of hundreds of trains in direction of one or two states from all kinds of train routes is a complex exercise. It has never happened before in the country like this. We are managing."
He said that he has been informed that tracks are all clear now and the trains are moving.
According to official data with the railways, 31 lakh migrant workers on board 2,317 Shramik Special trains were transported to their home states since May 1, almost seven lakh more than the initial projection of 24 lakh.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)