Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Sunday said around 50,000 residents of Jammu and Kashmir stranded in different parts of the country due to the ongoing lockdown have returned to the Union territory so far.
Singh also said two trains -- one from Benguluru and the other from Goa -- were on their way to Udhampur, while around 20 buses carrying students from Madhya Pradesh and other places have reached Jammu and Kashmir.
As many as 48,000 people have returned to Jammu and Kashmir by road through the Lakhanpur entry point in Kathua district in addition to those coming by train or air. The total number of people returning to the UT could be over 50,000, he said in a statement here.
Singh said more people of Jammu and Kashmir would be able to return in the coming days as all other modes of transport might open soon.
The Union Minister of State for the PMO said the return of those held up abroad has also begun under the Vande Bharat Mission.
Singh, who hails from the Union Territory, appealed to all those from Jammu and Kashmir who are held up in different parts of the country to be patient and assured that everybody would be able to return home since the process of movement has already started.
"The urge to reach home is quite natural and understandable but it is an unusual situation as all of us know," he said.
Allaying all misgivings or misinformation that there was any favouritism or pick-and-choose in bringing back those who were held up outside, the minister said a clear criteria was being followed, as per which labourers or migrant workers in hard-pressed situations or students in distress were being given priority.
As far as the sick or the emergency cases are concerned, the minister said they were also given special passes to travel. "We have to learn to make a distinction between movement by necessity and movement by choice," he said.
Singh disclosed that even some of his friends, colleagues and their families, who were held up due to the lockdown and were keen to get back to Jammu and Kashmir, have been requested to stay back for a while.
This, he said, is a small gesture of giving up the convenience for the sustenance of a fellow human being who is in greater need.
The minister said the administration was under tremendous pressure to facilitate the travel on different routes while following the guidelines of social distancing.
He appreciated the cooperation rendered by the passengers and the public, and hoped that it would continue in the days to come as well.