The migrant labourers said that the restrictions imposed on the movement of public transport have compelled them to begin their journey to their native villages on foot.
The mass exodus of migrant labourers, workers and other unorganised sector workers from different cities continued on the third day of the 21-day lockdown imposed in view of the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Scores of migrant workers from Delhi and its suburbs have started leaving for their respective hometowns in neighbouring states as they are left with no work and no money to make ends meet during the lockdown period.
Similar cases have been reported from Maharashtra and Gujarat as well. Although the Centre and state governments have announced measures to ensure that the affected workers are offered free meals and shelter, the assurances have not proven effective enough so far.
The migrant labourers said that the restrictions imposed on the movement of public transport have compelled them to begin their journey to their native villages on foot. While a few are lucky to have left on their bicycles and autorickaws, some are exploring means to travel in goods vehicles like trucks and loader tempos, only putting their own and others’ lives at risk.
The lockdown has left thousands of daily-wagers without jobs and they are now moving on foot to their villages as government has suspended road and rail traffic. Many are left with no cash and have nothing to eat. “We are going to Badaun (Uttar Pradesh) from Okhla. We are hungry for the past two days. Biscuit pack which used to cost Rs 10 now costs Rs 30. We have no money. We will die either of hunger or coronavirus,” a labourer told ANI.
The Gautam Buddh Nagar administration on Friday said it arranged over a dozen buses to over 600 stranded people to help them reach home during the lockdown. These migrant workers , including women and children hailing from Bihar and places in interior Uttar Pradesh such as Etawah, Auraiya, Kanpur, Aligarh, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh were picked up from the Yamuna Expressway.
In Jharkhand, a group of 27 migrant labourers, who worked in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, walked to reach Dumka. The labourers said that no transport is available to reach their home in Bihar’s Saharsa. They left Hooghly on March 23.
In Thane, around 40 migrant labourers working in Mumbai were stopped by police on Friday morning for trying to escape to Uttar Pradesh in a truck.
In Gujarat, the government has warned the migrant workers against leaving the state and promised them adequate support. The state government has asked district administration to ensure migrant workers are provided with food and accommodation.
Several other states and their chief ministers have contacted each other seeking help and offering assistance to labourers from these states who have been stranded with little means to support themselves and their families in view of the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked state governments to prevent a mass exodus of workers from their workplaces to hometowns and arrange food and shelter for them.