Closure of the coronavirus: sea of migrants, wave of tragedies | India News
At state borders in southern India, at least 5,000 were stranded at the crossing points between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Those most affected were the AP-Karnataka, AP-Telangana and AP-Tamil Nadu and Telangana-Maharashtra borders.
Many states found that they had no choice but to help these sad and desperate streams of men, women and children on their trips home and to provide them with food and transportation.
Thousands of workers gathered on the Rajasthan borders with Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh on Saturday as they waited for buses to take them home in those states, while tens of thousands of people on the Delhi-UP border and similar numbers in Noida tried to depart for deeper destinations in UP and beyond.
About 2 lakh of migrant workers heading to Bihar from the Delhi National Capital Region in cars, mini trucks and buses are believed to have crossed UP’s Shahjahanpur district in the past 24 hours. They were on the Ghaziabad-Rampur-Bareilly-Lucknow-Gorakhpur-Muzaffarpur route, according to Bareilly reports. “At least the wheat crop is ready for home harvest,” said one of them. “It is better to die at home than to be left alone in Delhi,” said another. Many had paid Rs 2,500 for trips home on auto-rickshaws.
Police Inspector Deepak Shukla, deployed on Highway 24 in Hardoi-Shahjahanpur, said hundreds of auto-rickshaws with Delhi registration numbers had passed in the past 24 hours. He said he stopped some, but they all said they owned the cars and had no other means of getting home. There was some relief when the UP government organized more than 3,000 buses to transport migrants to their destination. About 300 buses operated from the Agra region to different parts of the state on Saturday.
West Bengal, one of the states migrants were reaching, did not see a large crush on its borders, but that seemed likely because those returning were still on their way or trapped at other state borders. Bengal emigration is mainly directed to states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, Kerala, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, where thousands of people are stranded. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has written to her counterparts in 18 states urging them to provide basic food, shelter and medicine to the stranded. Jharkhand people stranded at Howrah station were sent by bus but stopped at the Jharkhand border. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry sources said that more than 2,300 Bangladeshi citizens had left India and 400 Indians had returned there in the past three days.
Kerala was the other state that stood out in contrast. There was a rush to return, to Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, etc., but that was long before the closure began. Then, just before the national shutdown, a workers’ cooperative had sent 156 workers back to Malda, Bengal, on buses. Subsequently, the southern state took many proactive measures targeting stranded guest workers, as they are officially called, such as opening relief camps and community kitchens.
Telangana had approximately 8,000 people from the Chnadrapur district of Maharashtra stranded in three districts: Mehboobnagar, Khammam and Bhadrachalam on Saturday. Hundreds of families in the Chandrapur district migrate to these districts. Most are workers and return home in March. Maharashtra relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadetiwar said it was not possible at this time to bring them back as Chandrapur has no Covid-19 cases. “Our CM has spoken with his Telangana counterpart and the necessary arrangements have been made,” he said. Similarly, immigrants from the Mumbai, Thane and Palghar districts have been walking to their native villages in Gujarat and Rajasthan. With states sealing the borders, migrants who had walked to the Bhilad (Maharashtra-Gujarat) border had to return. Talasari Police Inspector Ajay Vasave said that as of Friday more than 3,000 immigrants had gathered at the border. Although urged to return, several NGOs helped with food, water and tea. The government has also promised them food and shelter until the crisis ends.
Thousands of migrant workers from different parts of the country are stranded in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The police have sealed these borders. Even the AP and Telangana agricultural labor force is stranded as the borders between districts are also closed. The AP government made it clear that it will allow people to enter the state only if they agree to stay in designated quarantine centers for 14 days.
More than two million Bihari migrants are feared to be trapped in at least eight states due to the national blockade. Bihar’s Resident Commissioner at Vipin Kumar’s Delhi office has been trying to make arrangements for food and rations for those trapped in their workplaces or have already begun to move en masse. “Helpline numbers for trapped Bihari migrants have been released,” an official said. The preferred destinations of Bihari migrants are Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Rajasthan has empowered collectors of the district to organize buses for these workers. State transport minister Pratap Singh Khachariya said that the state highway buses would be used to drop off all migrant workers entering Rajasthan from other states. Workers from other states would be transported to the state borders. The 18,000 workers who entered Dungarpur from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are staying on roads, tankers, and anywhere else they can find space.
Chhattisgarh has sealed its borders and those who are there are being transferred to identified shelters. Prime Minister Bhupesh Baghel has instructed all collectors and SPs in the district to ensure that these migrants receive shelter and food until things get better.
Himachal Pradesh also sealed its borders.
In Odisha, Jharsuguda police trapped 60 drivers while trying to return to their villages in Bihar and Jharkhand in a truck. The state labor department has already coordinated with 9,000 workers from other states stranded in Odisha. They are from Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Food, shelter and, in some cases, medical care have been provided.
Jhansi in UP, which touches Madhya Pradesh in eight different locations, has around 2,500 migrants on the roads of Gwalior and Mauranipur. At least 6,000 people have already crossed into MP on foot since Friday. More than three dozen buses have been organized to transport them to MP.
While migrant workers heading to Bihar from Delhi had not yet reached Varanasi and Chandauli (expected to arrive in Kashi on Sunday), masses of local workers from UP’s eastern districts headed home for Farrukhabad. and Agra have hit the roads. More than 400 people had gathered at the bus stations in Varanasi and another 500 Bihar workers and their families could be seen walking in groups of 10 and 20 in Chandauli. The administration in Varanasi was making arrangements to disperse the crowds at the bus stations.
Gujarat said the outflow of migrant workers from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh had been reduced and that they were being provided with food and temporary shelter at interstate borders. Three districts in northern Gujarat – Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Aravalli – have a total of 26 points from which to enter Rajasthan. Banaskantha collector Sandeep Sagale said: “There is no overcrowding at the border now, but about 1,500 heading to Rajasthan on Friday night received food and temporary shelters in schools and hotels.” Dahod, who shares a border with Rajasthan and MP, saw thousands of workers return home on foot.
Goa, where thousands of migrants employed in the hospitality and industry sectors are locked up, prevented around 300 workers from crossing the border into Karnataka, CM Pramod Sawant said, adding that his government had assured them of food and shelter. He said Goa has migrant shelters in every taluka. Currently, no migrant is stranded on the Goa border with Maharashtra or Karnataka.
The 1,400 fishermen who returned to their Andhra Pradesh home from Karnataka districts in Mangaluru and Udupi have been accommodated at the Adarsha School on the Bengaluru-Chennai national highway, Mulbagal tehsildar KN Rajashekar said.