The Ministry of Home Affairs nod has paved the way for lakhs of migrants stuck in the state to return home. It has, however, brought forth its own set of problems with workers facing difficulty in procuring passes that will allow them to travel.
The challenges include lack of clarity on how they are to reach home and getting a medical certificate declaring them fit. Several migrants, who have been waiting for more than a month to go home, are facing problems in locating doctors. They are also calling up their villages to arrange buses. Many have also exhausted their savings.
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There were crowds of migrants at several police stations across the city, especially areas with large migrant population under their jurisdictions like Saki Naka and Malwani police stations.
DCP (zone 5) Niyati Thakkar, whose jurisdiction includes Dharavi that saw a high number of COVID-19 cases, said they have circulated the application form for the passes. The form seeks details like the name of the person, village and how they plan to reach their village.
“For every 20-25 people we have appointed two group leaders to collect the filled forms and give an undertaking. The form — in triplicate — is to be accompanied by a medical certificate confirming the person is not suffering from any influenza-type disease,” Thakkar said.
For migrant workers, however, getting a medical certificate with several clinics shut has become a challenge. “We got the form from Dharavi police station and also pooled in money and arranged for a private vehicle to take 25 of us back home to Jharkhand. But, most clinics in our area are shut. We cannot step out as many parts of Dharavi are containment zones,” said Triveni Yadav, who lives in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar in Dharavi.
Additional commissioner of police (north region) Dilip Sawant said, “We have requested two doctors to medically examine the migrants and give them the necessary certificate. The two doctors are based out of Kandivali and Malad.” Thakkar said they too are trying to look for doctors.
Non-profit organisations coordinating with the workers, however, said confusion was abound. In some areas, the free forms were being sold for Rs 5 and Rs 10. “We have also received queries regarding whether the medical screening means a COVID-19 test, and whether it will remain valid even if the train is eventually arranged a few weeks later,” said Deepak Paradkar, of Aajeevika Bureau.
Another problem faced by the migrants is arranging for means to reach their hometowns. For 25-year-old Durgesh Kumar, it was the first ray of hope when he heard about migrants being permitted to go to their hometowns. He rushed to Agripada police station on Saturday morning and submitted Aadhaar and other details.
However, once he reached the police station seeking permission to return to his hometown in UP, the police told us that there are no trains and his group would have to book their own bus for a group of 15 or more following which they would get permission to head home. With little money left Durgesh began making frantic calls back home to send some money to him. “We are trying to reach out to some bus operators as well but cannot connect. If there are trains leaving from Nashik then we don’t mind traveling to Nashik for a train,” said Durgesh.
A senior officer said, “We have been trying to get in touch with travel and tour operators and asking them to run buses for migrant workers. We are hoping that the government will also intervene to resolve the issue.”
Another issue that has had the cops worried is the time that the entire process will take. “After the local police stations get the letters, they will be sent to the DCP office. From the DCP office, it will be mailed to the government. From there, the nodal officer of the state will forward these requests to the respective states. Once the states communicate there is no objection, the information will percolate down to the ground following the same structure,” the officer said.
He added, “We have been trying to explain this to the migrants. I suspect it may take at least a week for the entire process to be complete. Now that people have started going home, the migrants are restless and want to go home at the earliest. We don’t know how long they will continue to be patient.”
(Inputs by Iram Siddiqui and Sadaf Modak)
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