News and Views on Tibet

Stranded Tibetans likely to return as travel ban eases in India

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Tibetans in Dharamshala line up to recieve ration and other essentials. May 1, 2020. Phayul photo-Kunsang Gashon
Tibetans in Dharamshala line up to recieve ration and other essentials. May 1, 2020. Phayul photo-Kunsang Gashon

By Choekyi Lhamo and Tenzin Dharpo

DHARAMSHALA, May 2: Tibetans in India who are stranded in other states might return to their homes as the ban for travel in India may be relaxed in certain quarters of the country. Here in Himachal Pradesh, the state government opened registration for entry passes on April 25.

District Commissioner of Kangra in HP state, Rakesh Kumar Prajapati, announced that the local residents who are stranded in other districts can apply for entry passes through online registration. Kunga Tsering, Settlement Officer of Dharamshala, told Phayul, “Our office is working on an announcement concerning the travel procedures of Tibetans returning to Dharamshala. A few Tibetans from Delhi have already contacted us for information regarding the same.”

However, the settlement officer requested Tibetans to have patience and urged stranded individuals to refrain from travel for the time being. “DC of Kangra told us in one of the meetings that it would be most effective if the residents of Kangra refrain from travelling back home for the month of May to avoid the risk of spread. The online registration has been put on hold as almost 30,000 people have already come to Himachal via that process.”

As India’s nationwide lockdown is further extended for two more weeks, frustration grows for those stranded as the inter-state travel ban continues to be implemented strictly. Many Tibetans from Dharamshala are stuck in neighbouring places like Delhi and Dehradun while many from Tibetan settlements in other parts of India like Bylakuppe and Ladakh are stranded in Delhi and even places like Goa.

“A strong inflow from other states after the relaxation is highly unlikely as travelling through air or railways are banned throughout India. Those stranded in neighbouring states like Delhi, Punjab or Uttarakhand with proper documents of registration and means of travel can reach Himachal by road in the coming days,” remarked Tsering.

The settlement officer said that those returning from other states will be required to quarantine for 28 days whereas those returning from other district are required to observe 14 days of quarantine. If any individual is found violating the rules, he/she can be charged with ‘Attempt to Murder’ among other legal actions.

Across India, hundreds of thousands of Indians, most of them migrant labourers are stranded in other states where they form the bulk of the nation’s workforce in the construction sector among others. Even though the central government has banned all inter-state travel, there is overwhelming pressure from state governments to allow transports to ferry home migrant labourers in various India states. At least 8 state governments have written to the central government to permit special trains to that end.

On early Friday morning, the first special train left from Lingampalli in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand carrying 1,225 migrant workers. The same day, the Indian Railways sent out five “Shramik Special” trains from Maharashtra, Telangana, Kerala, and Rajasthan for transporting more than 7,000 people, including stranded labourers, pilgrims, tourists, and students. The Indian Railway is said to be preparing for 400 trains a day operation initially and then scale it up to 1000 trains daily in the coming days to take home the stranded.



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