Desperately waiting to go home, hundreds of stranded migrant workers started queuing up at each police station in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad on Monday to submit their applications to obtain transit passes. While the police have set up a portal to accept the applications, a majority of migrant workers instead chose to visit police stations and use the option of procuring physical forms and submitting them, citing unfamiliarity with the digital process.
As many as 15,502 migrant workers from outside Maharashtra have listed their names with Pune City Police to obtain a transit pass. According to Deputy Commissioner of Police Bachchan Singh, the police are co-ordinating and liaising with nodal officers of various districts across the country where the migrant workers want to travel.
While a system has been put in a place to accept the applications, concerns of the migrant workers are far from over. Their immediate worry is getting medical certificates that have to be attached with the forms to enrol with the police to get a travel permit. They also have to figure out how, once they get the transit pass, they will travel back home.
Gokarna Kumar, a 26-year-old mason, collected forms from Chatushrungi police station to get travel permits for the 21 people in his group, to go to their homes in various villages in Gariaband district in Chhattisgarh.
“Someone told us that they were giving forms at police station, so we came here. They have asked us to submit completed forms and attach Aadhaar card and a medical certificate of each person. Most of us, except children and some others, have Aadhaar cards. But from where should we get the medical certificate and how will I take all 21 persons there? We still don’t know… after we get the pass, how are we going to go home,” asked Gokarna.
He said they have all survived on rations from some private organisations, and at times, from police, “But we now want to go home,” he said.
Shani Sahani, an 18-year-old carpenter from Uttar Pradesh’s Basti district, said he and his friend shelled out Rs 700 each to obtain a fitness certificate from Shivajinagar’s Hardikar Hospital. “This is very expensive but other hospitals are too crowded,” said Sahani.
An officer from Pune City Police said, “Some people will face issues in getting medical certificates, which just have to specify that the person does not have COVID-19 symptoms. We have allowed certificates from a registered practitioner. As we progress in the process, individual police stations may assign doctors to do medical check-ups at places near their places of residence.”
On Saturday, police in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad had formed coordination teams and issued a set of directions, to be followed by the people who have been stranded in the city and want to head back to their homes in other districts of Maharashtra or in other states.
It has, however, been clarified that no person residing in ‘containment zones’ with high COVID prevalence will be permitted to travel.
Police officials said those intending to travel, including labourers, students, tourists and pilgrims, will have to fill the necessary details on this website: https://covid19.mhpolice.in. The website will ask the visitor to choose between travel within Maharashtra or outside.
If more than five people want to travel together, the group representative will have to upload documents including the list of people and their phone numbers. If the person is not able to upload documents on the website, they can visit the local police station. For uploading information or for submitting to police station, people will have to carry photos, medical certificate and identity documents.
Pune City Police hasdesignated two officers as coordinating authority for granting permission to individuals or groups wanting to travel outside. Deputy Commissioner of Police Bachchan Singh and Superintendent of Police with PMRDA, Sarang Awad, who has been deputed with Pune Police, will coordinate the process.
Sarang Awad said, “After receiving an application from the web-based platform or police station, the application will be sent through the district collector here to the receiving districts of the applicants to get a nod. After clearance from them, passes will be issued.”
Further explaining the process, Bachchan Singh said, “In the case of an individual or a small group, the applicants will have to make arrangements for transport. In the case of large groups or bulk applications, we will facilitate buses or trains as per availability.”
In Pimpri-Chinchwad, DCP Sudhir Hiremath is heading the process. Speaking to The Indian Express, Hiremath said, “In some areas like Chakan, there are a large number of industrial workers. For their benefit, we have arranged visits of doctors to the areas where they live, so they can get their medical exams done.”
Vasudev Das, who is from Odisha, has been working as a construction site in Balewadi. He said, “We had gone to a hospital, but they refused to conduct medical tests. Two other clinics were closed. The officer at the police station has given details of a doctor. We, a group of 15 people, will have to walk to that place tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, police had to use mild force after nearly 500 migrant labourers gathered in Warje area around Monday noon because of inaccurate reports that police had started a centre to facilitate their journeys back home. A police officer from Warje police station said someone told residents of a shelter home and others from nearby cluster of labourers’ shanties that police had stared a centre at Majur Adda, an open space under a flyover, otherwise used by labourers to gather and head for work.
But when police told them that the process had to be done either online or at a police station, some of them allegedly created a ruckus. The official said police had to use mild force to disperse the crowd.
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