Bhopal: Raj Kishore, 42, an employee in a sweet shop in Mumbai for the past five years, set outonWednesdaymore than 1200 kilometres to his home in Agra district in Uttar Pradesh when he was informed about the Maharashtra government’s bus service to Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border.
On Thursday, Kishore along with hundreds of other workers, was waiting for hours for his turn to get a bus at Bijasan, a check-post on MP-Maharashtra border, in Barwani district, 313 kilometres south west of Bhopal. The day’s temperature had climbed to 42 degrees C. He intended to go back either by buses provided by MP government or private vehicles like trucks, taxi, auto-rickshaws etc.
According to the MP government, free buses are being provided at the Maharashtra border to take workers to Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, 650 km away, after a change of buses at Dewas and Guna. Similar arrangements have also been made at other border checkposts since Tuesday when the rush of migrant workers started, the officials said.
Those dropped at the border by buses or reaching the border on foot or bicycles have to wait for hours to get a bus..
Ram Verma, who had been waiting for least six hours with his wife and two children, 5 and 7 years old, at Bijasan, said, “I stuck around in Mumbai till now but getting stranded without a job meant taking care of my family with no money in hand. At least, I can have something to eat in my village.” He lost his job as a salesman in Mumbai after the lockdown was announced.
Om Prakash Mishra from UP’s Jaunpur district, who fixes tiles in buildings under construction in Mumbai, reached Chhindwara, on Thursday morning, in a truck by paying Rs 3,000. “With no job for two months I had run out of money. I requested my family to send money to me for the travel expenses,” he said.
A government official in Barwani, which is witnessing migrant labourers from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, said the rush was unprecedented. “More than 20, 000 to 25, 000 workers are coming daily for several destinations in MP, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. We have arranged for about 120 buses. Seeing the rush, we need 200 buses,” he said.
“Managing them is becoming very difficult. Many of them are very aggressive. We are not using force as it could lead to law and order situation,” he said.
As there are not enough buses, he said, they were trying to arrange trucks and tempos for workers to return home. Sendhwa sub-divisional magistrate, Ghyanshyam Dhangar, said they were trying to arrange more buses as each bus was accommodating no more than 40 workers to maintain social distancing norms..
Kavita Kanesh, in charge of the police outpost in charge at Bijasan, said, “The labourers are desperate to go home. We give them food and water but what gives them the biggest joy is a seat in any bus or any vehicle.”
Amit Tomar, district collector, Barwani district, said, “As per the announcement of the chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, we are providing facilities like food, water, and shelter to those labourers who are coming in their own vehicles or through other vehicles and providing the facility of buses to others who are entering Madhya Pradesh on foot from Maharashtra. All the facilities are free. Medical examinations of the labourers are also being conducted.”
(With input from Sachin Pandey in Chhindwara and Mayank Bhargva in Betul)