Several migrant workers on their way to UP on foot and in private buses and trucks, from Gujarat and Maharashtra, were stopped in Vadodara, leading to altercations with police and security personnel at checkposts, officials said.
Many of the migrants said they had waited for over a month for the UP government to help, and had now run out of patience. Officials said some of them had travel permits from the districts they had left, which has added to the confusion at checkposts.
“I have three young children, and my wife has been crying over the phone. It’s driving me mad. There is no way I am going to stop now. Even if I die on the way, it’s alright,” said Tolan Singh Yadav, 23, who works at Kadodara in Surat.
Officials said that from Friday night, migrants from as far as Maharashtra have been arriving at the checkposts, where they are being urged to return, and wait for official evacuation.
Commissioner of Police Anupam Singh Gahlaut told The Indian Express that as many as 25 buses were sent back to Surat after the migrants were counselled on government plans to start trains to transport them. “We do not have any official instruction to allow them to travel by road. We have been trying to explain to them that the state governments are discussing the best possible ways to ensure safe travel, and they should wait,” Gahlaut said.
Yadav said he had set out on foot Thursday morning to reach his home in UP’s Siddharth Nagar district and was stopped at Golden Chowkdi in Vadodara.
“I have two other colleagues with me, and we have walked close to 180 km… How long will we wait for the government to take us back? We know that many of those who left earlier have reached their homes. I regret waiting for so long. I should have started walking long back. The government seems to have decided to take only our bodies back, once we are dead of hunger and depression,” he said.
Tolan’s colleague Anil Kumar Yadav, said people helped them twice on the way with food. “We have biscuits. We will survive but we have to go home,” he said.
Another group of migrants has hired a double-decker sleeper bus “to maintain social distancing”. One of them, Mohammad Anwar from Amethi, said he had organised the bus and would collect Rs 4000 from each of the 40 passengers.
“We hired the bus from Surat and we have a permit to travel from the Surat District administration. We have been waiting for the government to resume the trains and take us back. But when they announced an extension of the lockdown, we ran out of patience. Our families are alone and anxious back home. None of us can afford this bus but we will gather the money once we reach UP,” he said.
Officials said many of these migrants entered into altercations with police at Karjan and Golden Chokdi in Vadodara and Halol in the Panchmahals.
According to police officers, many of the transport vehicles ferrying the migrants did not have permits, while some others had.
“The migrants have run out of patience. We have been asked to counsel and explain to them that the logistics are being worked out and they will soon be back home. But many of these vehicles had documents of permission from the district administration of their place of origin. Some had come from as far as Maharashtra and we couldn’t stop them from proceeding,” an officer in charge of a checkpost said.
“There is nothing official from the UP government about accepting migrants by road, and we don’t know if they will clear that state’s border checkpost. There is no issue with those wanting to go to Madhya Pradesh but it is the migrants from UP who may face hurdles. It is definitely a logistical issue because they can hardly maintain social distancing for such a long journey, especially on trucks,” the officer said.