Hundreds of migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha working in the Hazira industrial belt came onto the streets and clashed with the police at Mora village on the outskirts of Surat on Saturday, demanding that they be sent back to their home states. The police resorted to lathicharge and fired tear gas to disperse the mob. Hundred workers were detained in this connection, police said.
This, on a day when the city sent back 30,000 migrants to their home states and districts within Gujarat by 14 trains and buses of the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC), the highest numbers to leave in a single day.
The coastal belt of Hazira has several multinational companies where these migrant workers are employed. They live in rented rooms in Mora village. Seeing several migrants going back to their home states by trains and buses, these workers also demanded to Hazira go home, police said. When the police asked them to go back, they pelted stones at the police.
Police have lodged complaint of rioting and attack on police, damage to public property and under the Epidemic Diseases Act.
Joint police commissioner D N Patel said, “These migrant workers are from Jharkhand, Bihar and UP and some from Odisha and they wanted to go back to their home state. Our officials tried to explain to them but they did not co-operate and pelted stones at police. Hundred workers have been detained and the situation is under control now. As per the guidelines, all the arrested workers will be medically examined. Two policemen have suffered minor injuries in the stone pelting incident.”
Surat has seen four such migrant outbursts since the imposition of the first lockdown in March this year.
On Saturday, 14 trains left Surat for Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh carrying 16,800 workers stranded in the city due to the Covid-19 lockdown. This was the first train to Odisha after the Supreme Court stayed the Odisha High Court order on Friday, directing migrants coming in to the state to test negative for Covid-19. A train carrying 1,200 people left for Jagannathpur in Odisha from Surat.
A total of 15,120 migrants left to Saurashtra and other districts in north Gujarat in buses. Some of them also left to their home states in private luxury buses.
Twelve of the trains left to different districts in Uttar Pradesh including Prayagraj, Varanasi, Pratapgarh, Jaunpur, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. One train each carrying the migrants left for Bihar and Odisha.
The train tickets are booked by the community leaders who had collected the travel fare from the passengers. They were brought to the railway station in buses. The migrants were thermally screened at the railway station before boarding the train. They were also given water bottles and food packets by various NGOs. Strict police arrangements were made at the Surat railway station to ensure that social distancing is maintained.
Surat Railway station director C M Garuda said, “We have got large number of bookings to UP. Today, we have resumed the train services from Surat to Odisha. We are hoping to get permission to run train from Surat to Madhya Pradesh.”
At present, the GSRTC authorities are giving bus connectivity to 13 different destinations from Surat like Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Botad, Mahisagar, Patan, Dwarka, Mehsana, Jamnagar. Rajkot, Gir Somnath, Bhuj and Godhra.
The highest number of bookings is to Amreli followed by Bhavnagar, Botad and Junagadh.
GSRTC Surat district controller Sanjay Joshi said, “In the last four days, 1,000 buses had left from Surat to different destinations in Saurashtra and north Gujarat. We are allowing only 30 passengers to travel in a single bus so that social distancing can be maintained. Once the bus returns to Surat after the journey, it is entirely disinfected at our workshop.”
“The fares are much cheaper than what private luxury buses charge. The passengers have to pay the fare for one-way trip,” Joshi added.
Surat Diamond Association president Babubhai Katheriya said, “We are expecting that over one lakh people may leave for Saurashtra and north Gujarat from Surat in the coming days. Once the situation turns normal, and as the diamond industries resume operations, these workers will return to Surat.”