The first Shramik special train from Puducherry left for Bhopal early on Sunday carrying more than 1,100 migrant workers stranded in the union territory due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, Welfare Minister M Kandasamy, District Collector T Arun and opposition AIADMK legislator A.Anbalagan flagged off the train at around 1 A.M at the railway station here.
In a co-ordinated plan, implemented by the UT administration, as many as 813 workers from Puducherry and 355 from Karaikal, who had expressed their willingness to return to their native places, were sent back to their home towns.
Packets containing food, masks and water bottles were handed to each of the 1,168 workers by staff of the Revenue and Disaster Management department, official sources said.
Earlier, the workers underwent a medical screening at the Indira Gandhi Sports complex here and were transported by special buses to the railway station, they said.
Narayanasamy said his government had earmarked Rs 14 lakhs from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund to foot the bill for operating the special train for the workers, who were employed in several industries in the UT.
The chief minister said he had talked to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal for operating the special train.
"I thank the Central Minister and the Railway department for facilitating the return of the workers from the Union Territory," he told reporters.
Tourism Secretary Purva Garg and Superintendent of Police Rachna Singh were part of the official team which coordinated the plan for the return of the stranded workers.
Around 5,000 guest workers are in the UT and the registration process was on for sending back remaining people also, official sources said.