Tuesday, 14 July, 2020
Exclusives - 26 March, 2020

Plight of the migrants: 500 return hiding in goods train, many face long walk home

Around 500 local residents from the Gwalior-Chambal region returned home on Thursday by hiding in a goods train. But their act landed them in trouble after the goods train they clandestinely .... #Plightofthemigrantlabourers

Gwalior: Around 500 local residents from the Gwalior-Chambal region returned home on Thursday by hiding in a goods train. But their act landed them in trouble after the goods train they clandestinely boarded at Uttar Pradesh's Mathura junction did not stop at Gwalior and moved on to Jhansi. After special pleas from the ‘hiding’ passengers, the administration got them back in a special train.

After the national lockdown was announced, several migrants working outside the state started returning home. The 500 labourers had secretly boarded the goods train in Mathura on Wednesday night, taking advantage of the dark, said the Gwalior police.

After the train failed to stop at Morena or Gwalior, the panicked travellers contacted the police in Bhind and Morena districts.

Chambal Divisional Commissioner Renu Tiwari then contacted the DRM Jhansi after which directives were issued and the train halted at Jhansi. All the passengers were then screened at the railway station and sent to Gwalior in a special train, said government spokesperon DD Shakyawar.

After the train reached Jhansi, administrative officers, including health staff, were present and the travellers were subjected to a second health test. The administration arranged buses to let these locals reach their destinations.

Migrant workers face long walk home

On Thursday morning, with no way of earning a living, a 28-year-old labourer set off on a 110-kilometre (68-mile) walk back to his home village. “I tried catching a bus or truck yesterday, but there is no transport available on the road, so I decided to walk,” he told reporters, some 30 km (19 miles) into his journey.

He said “There is no food available on the roads but thankfully a few citizens offer us food, biscuits and water. It’s better to be home than to be here in the city without food and water.”

There were similar scenes in India’s capital New Delhi, where hundreds of migrants walked down deserted highways to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh this week.

The government of India has announced on Thursday a $22.6 billion economic stimulus plan that provides direct cash transfers and food security. But for India’s estimated 120 million migrant labourers, the shutdown is a crisis, as wages dry up and many cannot afford the rent or even food in the cities.

Across India, more than a dozen labourers returning home said they had been left with little choice other than to attempt to walk back to their home villages after work - and public transport - vanished.

Officials say the shutdown of all but essential services is necessary to beat coronavirus in the densely populated country of 1.3 billion people, with health infrastructure that can ill-afford a widespread outbreak. India has so far reported more than 600 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 13 deaths.

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