Parts of Dhule district adjacent to the Madhya Pradesh border saw an influx of migrant workers as hundreds of people stranded in Maharashtra due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown tried to enter the neighbouring state after it eased travel restrictions.
Bijasan Ghat, which connects Dhule district with Madhya Pradesh’s Barwani district, has been the gateway for the migrant workers from the state who have been trudging on the Mumbai-Agra Highway. While most of the migrants had started on foot, with a relaxation on the lockdown rules many were seen hailing or hiring passing vehicles for home.
Employees at Songir toll naka, the last major toll post in the state near the border, claimed that over the last three days thousands of vehicles, mostly ferrying MP-bound migrants, had passed through it. “Initially, we would see migrants walking on the roads. However, over the last three days we have seen more than 25,000-30,000 big and small vehicles, some of which were carrying migrant workers, cross the toll booth or the MP border,” Wahid Shaikh, a worker at the Songir toll booth, said.
Local activists say several trucks have even created an additional wooden berth – a two-tiered arrangement — to accommodate more people.
Officials of the Sangvi Shirpur police station, under whose jurisdiction the border area falls, have claimed that after a new notification was issued by the government last week, it has eased the movement of migrant workers due to which there has been a steep increase in the number of migrants travelling to their native places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. The officials added people from Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are also using the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border to reach their home states.
“On May 3, there was an incident of stone-pelting at the border after officials from Madhya Pradesh (MP) blocked the border. When our tehsildar visited the office in MP, it was learned that Uttar Pradesh was not allowing migrants to enter into the state due to which the MP authorities, too, had stopped migrant movement. This had made a crowd of around 10,000-15,000 restive, following which they started throwing stones,” said a police officer.
Since the incident, the Madhya Pradesh administration has eased the entry of migrants which has led to an increase in the number of people entering MP from Maharashtra, the official added. “Things were a lot better today. However, over the last two days we had vehicles that were waiting for close to an hour for clearance at the toll booth,” Shaikh said.
Meanwhile, social activist Medha Patkar also met Dhule district authorities urging them to double the number of bus services transporting people from Dhule to Madhya Pradesh.
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