Sitting under a tamarind tree in Government Girls Secondary School in Kanota on the outskirts of Jaipur, Mohd Azad Tyagi and his family are clueless about their journey ahead. Five of them began walking from their rented house in Jaipur’s Jalupura area on Friday morning for their native village in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district. There’s a three-month-old infant also with the family. Around noon, when they reached Kanota, police directed them to the shelter house in a government school.
“I have been jobless for four months,” said 37-year-old Tyagi. “My wife was in hospital for delivery in March. Our new born daughter has congenital defect in heart. I have been busy taking her to hospital for treatment. After the lockdown, the shop where I worked to repair mobile phones has been shut. I burrowed Rs 3,000 to pay the rent. We thought there was no point staying in Jaipur anymore,” he added.
There was another reason for Tyagi and his family to return to their village. The Jalupura neighbourhood in Rajasthan’s capital city where they were living is a densely-populated area. “I feared for my new born daughter. If we had continued living there, she may have gotten infected,” he said.
Tyagi’s family is one of the 218 families camping at the school in Kanota.
All across India, thousands of migrant workers along with their families have been walking home from cities and urban centres during the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
On Thursday, the Rajasthan government instructed all district collectors to set up camps with essential facilities such as food, water and toilet for people walking on highways. “If workers are found walking on roads, they should be sent to the nearest camps through buses,” said Subodh Agarwal, who heads the state level committee for interstate migration, in the government order. The order said collectors should organise roadways buses to take these people to the state’s border.
On Friday morning, many people were still seen walking on the Jaipur-Agra national highway. But they were stopped at a police check post at Kanota and directed to two camps set up in government schools.
Ajaz Ahmad of Bahraich district in Uttar Pradesh is also among the migrant workers taking shelter in one of the schools. He worked as a welder at a government bridge near Jaipur’s Sikar Road intersection. Though he registered himself on the e-mitra portal – the government facility for permission for interstate travels – on May 2, but didn’t get any reply. “We began walking at 4am this morning. First we went to the Sindhi Camp bus stand hoping to catch a bus but were turned away. We were walking when police told us to come to this camp,” he said.
By 2pm, Jaipur district administration had marshalled five roadways buses to ferry 195 people to two camps in Rajasthan’s border town of Bharatpur, said Jaipur divisional commissioner KC Verma in a government release.
But the bus journey is momentary relief – many of them were stopped at the border in Bharatpur.
“Bharatpur district administration has told us that their camps are full. They can’t take more people. Until this is resolved, we have stopped the buses at Dausa-Bharatpur border,” said Bassi tehsildar Premraj Meena, who is coordinating travels from Kanota. “Around 50 families have assembled at the camp again. We will send them as and when the buses are available to us. In the meantime, we have made all arrangements for them,” Meena said.
Tyagi’s family got into a bus and reached Dausa-Bharatpur border but is now stuck there. “They should provide bus to our home towns. This is hardly any help – picking us from one point and abandoning at the other,” he said on telephone.
Meanwhile, 74 families of Uttarakhand boarded a special train to Haridwar from Jaipur railway station on Friday evening. “We screened them at the check post in front of Kanota police station before sending them to the railway station,” the tehsildar said.
The divisional commissioner said the train to Haridwar carried 1,300 passengers. Another train left Jaipur for Saharanpur at 9pm, he said in the release.
According to the government, more than nine million people have registered themselves for permission to leave Rajasthan. Registration is also required to travel in buses arranged by government and in special trains.