The number of migrants applying to the state government for permission to leave Punjab rose exponentially from 2.83 lakh on Saturday to 6.52 lakh on Sunday. The state government’s helpline number for migrants who want to return to their native states is still open.
Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had recently said nearly 10 lakh migrant workers work in Punjab and if that number is taken into consideration, 2,42,887 of them have applied as the main applicants while another 4,09,484 will be moving with them as group members. Hence, roughly 6,52,371 migrant workers want to leave the state.
“Of the 4,09,484 group members, most are workers. Very few are moving out with families, hence the figures are mind-boggling and many persons are preferring to move on their own,” said D S Chawla, president of United Cycles Parts and Manufacturers Association (UCPMA).
Around 5.10 lakh migrant workers want to return to their native states using government transport. Majority applicants want to go to UP and Bihar — 3.43 lakh and 2.35 lakh respectively by 4.30 pm Sunday — thus forming 88.6 per cent of the total persons. Meanwhile, 10,692 and 6,157 persons want to move to Jharkhand and Uttrakhand respectively.
“If this trend continues, a large part of the migrant population will move out and only about 30 per cent settled ones will stay back. We will come to know after few days as which sectors’ workers have moved out in large numbers,” said TR Mishra, chairman of the Dyeing Association of Ludhiana.
Mohan Kumar, a part-time worker, said, “Although I along with 15 other friends have applied as a group, we don’t know when trains will start as the numbers are in lakhs. Hence, we are planning to go on our own. We have got our cycles serviced ourselves and will wait for 2-3 days or will go by bicycle to Saingnakhera village in UP’s Unnao district.”
Deepak, another group member, said, “Distance is about 700 km, we will take about a week to reach. We all had come in the first week of March. Work had hardly begun when the lockdown happened. Hence we have no money to run our expenses. It was our first visit to Ludhiana in search of work. No idea, when will we be back again.”
Ashu, another worker who has been staying in Ludhiana for more than 7 years now, is staying put. “I am fine here, most of the persons who have moved out or are still moving are those who had new jobs or just came for seasonal work in March itself. I fear of travelling in huge rush and moreover, I feel when units are opening up, why move out? Every day, our parents cry and call us after looking at TV reports, hence some get emotional and leave. But I try to tell them that it is safe to stay rather than travel.”
Ludhiana DC Pardeep Agarwal said, “we have prepared as database which shows that nearly 7 lakh migrant industrial workers work in Ludhiana alone, this is a rough estimate as of now, but numbers are huge and maximum applicants are also hence from Ludhiana only.”
Tents are being set up at the entrance of Ludhiana railway station to prepare for migrants’ travel. Deepak Kumar, PRO, Northern Railways said, “As of now, no schedule for Shramik trains has been made for Punjab. Though it is in pipeline.”
Sumeet Jarangal, State COVID-19 Control Room (SCCR) nodal officer said, “Applicants are growing in numbers every minute. Our forms are in Hindi, English as well as Punjabi for convenience of public, nearly 60 per cent of the persons who want to go to their home state are from industrial town Ludhiana.”
Migrants have to pay for tickets themselves
Migrants will have to pay for their tickets themselves and charges for the same will be decided by the local DC and ministry of railways, confirmed Punjab government authorities. So far, the states where they want to go have also not spoken on the issue of bearing ticket charges. As the railways have not yet sent any schedule of trains, ticket prices have also not been worked out as yet, said sources.
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