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For the thousands of migrants going from Maharashtra to their homes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the bypass checkpoint at Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha-Raisen border comes as a relief. No one walks past this point, or goes ahead empty stomach. Maybe because it is set up just below the hill that houses Emperor Ashoka’s Sanchi Stupas, but this checkpost seems to practice the ancient king’s preachings.
“Daily, we see about 10,000-15,000 people pass by, mostly from Maharashtra. We are making sure not a single person passes by on foot, or even bicycle. We accommodate them in empty buses and trucks,” says Ishwar Baghel, Sub Inspector, Vidisha. “If the need arises, the collector arranges for a bus. But no one is passing on foot.”
Baghel, who has been deployed at the state border since March 28, says the number of walkers have reduced in the past few days. “But whoever comes walking is provided with transportation.”
Other checkpoints in MP are also advised to help passing migrants. “For over eight days now, we have been distributing free food items like khichdi, dal-chawal and poori-sabji. We provided food to 5,000 people daily when this migration was at its peak,” explains Dinesh Saxena, an employee of Vidisha’s Municipal Committee. Now, he says, they offer tea and biscuits, “as passersby have decreased in the last couple of days”.
The municipal committee has a 15-member team in place, working two shifts daily. There are four tents with facilities of food and medicine as well as spaces to relax in. The police, local administration, municipal committee and civil society join hands in running the tents and ensuring the migrants have what they need.
Members of Vidisha’s civil society pay their respect to drivers transporting migrants. Masks were also distributed to those entering the state. Express Photo by Naman Shah
The gesture is not lost on the hundreds of migrants still crossing over into Madhya Pradesh on their way home. “Travelling out of Maharashtra was a nightmare. The authorities there didn’t even provide us water. People were drinking water from leaking pipelines. It was only after coming to MP that we have got enough food and water,” says Pramod Kumar Gupta, who along with a friend is trying to make his way to Allahabad from Thane, on his two-wheeler.
“I have been on the road for the last 36 hours. I left from Dadra and Nagar Haveli and received some food at a place in Gujarat. Maharashtra had nothing for the migrants. Just after entering the Madhya Pradesh border, we received food near Sendhwa and from there on there are food stalls at regular distances,” highlights Prince Kumar Gupta. He’s also on a two-wheeler with his friend, travelling to his village in MP’s Rewa.
Bindeshwar Verma has been an auto driver in Mumbai’s Santacruz for 15 years. “The water I carried from Mumbai had become warm on the way. But there was no place I could fill water in Maharashtra. It was only after entering MP, that we received water and food,” says Verma who is travelling to Pratapgarh in UP.
A tempo driver, who is ferrying about 10 people on the 1,600-km journey from Bhiwandi to Gorakhpur, echoes Verma’s sentiments. “We will not forget this warm welcome in MP.”