New Delhi, Mar 28, 2020: Lakhs of daily wage earners, poor and labourers have been hit hard by the 21-day lockdown from March 24 midnight till April 14 to tackle the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. With their source of income drying, the migrant labourers have been started to move back to their native places, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away from their place of work, negating the entire purpose behind the lockdown announced on March 24, 2020, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Zee reported.
Over the last two-three days, thousands of poor and migrant labourers, as well as semi-skilled workers, were seen crossing the Delhi border on National Highway 24 along with their families on foot in order to get back to their native place mostly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Similar scenes have been witnessed in places like Mumbai, Hyderabad and other big cities where the poor are moving back to their native place, increasing the chances of community spread of the deadly coronavirus as such large groups had no concept of social distancing.
Migrants gather in large number near Delhi-UP border NH24 amid lockdown in the country
In a tragic incident, five persons were killed when their van was hit by a lorry on the Outer Ring Road near the Shamshabad highway in Hyderabad. The van was carrying a group of 30 labourers and their family members from Suryapet in Telangana to Raichur in Karnataka. The group was returning to its native place due to the lockdown.
Another accident on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway claimed the lives of four people while three were seriously injured when they were hit by a tempo. This group, too, was returning to its native place from Maharashtra through Gujarat. But they were not allowed to enter Gujarat and so were returning to Maharashtra.
While the state governments have imposed Section 144 to avoid gathering of more than four people, the migrant workers have been taking lifts in trucks and other available vehicle or were simply walking back to their villages.
Uttar Pradesh roadways buses were seen plying for Lucknow carrying a large number of people from Lalkuan, Ghaziabad on Saturday. The bus conductors said that even after instructing people to maintain distance while travelling, no one was not ready to listen as all of them are is in a hurry to leave for their native place.
Uttar Pradesh roadways bus crowded with migrants as it leaves for Lucknow during lockdown
Travelers crowd outside bus to buy tickets
According to the migrants their bank accounts are at their native place, and therefore they will only receive benefits of government schemes once they get back.
They also pointed that without any income and almost no saving, they cannot afford to live in cities and were facing difficulties in buying food items.
In light of the massive exodus, the Union Home Ministry on Friday issued an advisory asking the state governments to prevent the mass reverse migration of labourers, industrial workers and unorganized sector employees from their workplaces to hometowns.
The states and union territories have also been advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of measures taken by the government, including the provision of free food grains and other essential items through PDS, and streamline the procedures.
The alarming situation comes even after Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Friday announced that the migrants living in Delhi are the state government’s responsibility. He also declared that more than 4 lakh people will be provided food on a daily basis.
Airline company Spicejet, too, extended its helping hand to the helpless labourers and offered aircraft and crew for any humanitarian mission that the government needs. Spicejet mentioned that they would love to alleviate the suffering of the migrant workers especially those from Bihar by flying some flights between Delhi, Mumbai and Patna.
In the wake of the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 in India, the country has been placed under complete lockdown for 21 days. Authorities have asked citizens to maintain strict social distancing to cut the spread of the virus outbreak.
As of 9 am March 28, 2020, the total number of coronavirus positive case in India is 834 out of which - 748 are active cases, 66 recovered, 19 deaths and 1 migrated patient, according to the health ministry.