The district administration of Amreli, which has not reported any COVID-19 positive case yet, is bracing for the influx of people from the two districts in Gujarat which has the highest number of confirmed cases – Ahmedabad and Surat.
The state government had on Monday announced that people living in Surat and Ahmedabad can return to their native places in Saurasthra including Amreli. Thousands of labourers working in diamond polishing industry in Surat and Ahmedabad as well as embroidery industry in Surat are natives of Amreli.
“We will start the mammoth exercise of receiving all those coming from Surat and Ahmedabad from tomorrow. Right now we have the capacity of handling 3,000 persons per day at the checkposts. Around 1.5 lakh people will be coming from both the districts,” Amreli District Collector Ayush Oak told The Indian Express.
The collector said that the migrants will be allowed entry into the district only from Chavand and Kotda Pitha check-posts on state highway 25.
“We have deployed large contingents of police and 20 medical teams at these check-posts to screen people and check validity of their permits. Those who have even mild symptoms of COVID-19 will be shifted to quarantine facility while the rest will be directed to remain in home-quarantine. Those coming without valid permits will be directly sent to the quarantine facility,” he said.
Oak added that government quarantine facilities have been set up in all 11 talukas of the district and have a cumulative capacity of 6,000 beds.
“We expect the influx will continue for the next 10 to 15 days. We will therefore increase handling capacity at these check-posts to around 10,000 persons per day,” added the officer.
“We have set up five-member teams to monitor situation in each village and keep watch on those under home-quarantine,” said the collector.
Despite around 80,000 people from Surat and Ahmedabad returning to their homes in Amreli district in March, when the nationwide lockdown began, the district administration has followed strict implementation of lockdown to contain the spread of infection.
“But people remained under home quarantine. A few who were violating lockdown rules were dealt with strictly,” said village sarpanch Navneet Akbari.
In Surat, Minister of State for Health Kishor Kanani and his cabinet colleague Ganpat Vasava chaired a high-level meeting with leaders of migrants from Saurashtra on Tuesday. Surat Diamond Association president Babubhai Katheriya, Surat District Collector Dhaval Patel, Saurashtra Seva Samaj Samiti president Kanji Bhalara and administrative officer in-charge Mahendra Patel also attended the meeting.
“In the meeting, it was decided that the private luxury bus owners had to submit a list of passengers at the district collector’s office, for obtaining travel permit. The officers in Surat will co-ordinate with their counterparts in receiving districts and intimate about the number of people coming so that arrangements can be made for their quarantine period,” Katheria said adding that diamond factories in Surat were likely to remain shut for next two months. Community leaders said buses might start departing from Surat from Thursday onwards.
Those who managed to return around the time the lockdown began are heaving a sigh of relief back in their villages. “Village is the place where one finds the treasure of good health and clean environment. We were lucky that we could leave just in time,” said Prakash Radadiya, (45) an advocate who is native of Bhad village in Khambha taluka of Amreli but who migrated to Surat 15 years ago.
Radadiya and six of his family members reached their home in Bhad village on March 24 in their car. “But my cousin brother Devang, who is a diamond polisher in Surat couldn’t come. He thought initially that the lockdown was for two days only. But then, it became difficult to travel and he doesn’t own any vehicle also,” Radadiya, who has since been working on his 30 bigha land in Bhad adds.
Devang’s elder brother Dilip says their mother Mukta remains worried. “Devang earns Rs15000 to Rs20000 per month. But his savings are depleting as he lives in a rented accommodation. We all are worried, especially my mother, about their safety and wellbeing,” says Dilip, a farmer.
Around 300 people had returned to their homes in Bhad in March, sys village sarpanch Navneet Akbari. “But people complied with home-quarantine requirements. A few who were violating lockdown rules were dealt with severely,” said the sarpanch, adding taluka development officer of Khambha acted like police, making people to do sit up and even beating up a few who were found loitering in Bhad village without a genuine reason.
Akbari said that two men rode their bikes all the way from Ahmedabad to Bhad on Sunday after obtaining permission from authorities on the ground that they needed to return to their village to farm their agricultural land.
Meanwhile, around 40 migrant workers who are stranded on agricultural field in Chital village of Amreli, have been demanding to send them back to their homes in Madhya Pradesh.
“We have already spent half of our savings on food since the lockdown began. We want to return to our home,” said Sonbai Adkhya, a native of Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh.
Sonbai said that she had not got any ration from the government. “We work as casual labourers. Since we are not tenants of anyone here, farmers are also not helping us much,” she added.
The Amreli district collector said that the process of sending migrant workers from MP back to their state had already been initiated.
“There are around 26,000 migrant workers in Amreli and majority of them are from MP. We are facilitating their return by arranging buses. Around 1,500 people have already left. We are planning to arrange a special train for around 1,000 migrants from Uttar Pradesh,” said Oak.
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