The Maharashtra government has decided to allow thousands of migrant workers wanting to return home on foot on humanitarian grounds despite them violating lockdown norms, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told news agency PTI.
Deshmukh said the sufferings of the labourers would have been much less had train services commenced earlier, as demanded by the state government. “It is true that migrant labourers who are walking back to their home towns hundreds of kilometres away are in a way violating lockdown norms, but we are letting them go on humanitarian ground,” he said.
Last month, hundreds of migrant labourers had gathered in Bandra station, demanding transportation arrangements be made for them to go back to their native places. Police baton-charged the workers to disperse them.
Stating that extension of the lockdown “pushed the migrant labourers to the edge”, Deshmukh said, “They are so desperate to go home that they are ready to even face the wrath of law enforcement agencies. Hence we decided not to be harsh with them. It is not alone my minsitry but the government as a whole is trying to help them.”
The minister said there was some communication gap (between the state government and labourers) which could have been corrected earlier.
“We never thought the lockdown would get extended for such a long time. We tried to speak to migrant labourers. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also made several appeals, but the migrant workers decided to return home, he said.
Deshmukh said the government tried to convince migrant labourers not to leave the state by telling them that some industries have resumed and there would be more relaxations in the coming days.
“During my visit to temporary shelter homes, a group of workers told me they might come back after Diwali, but now they want to go home,” he said.
Deshmukh said that the migrants are taking a huge risk by setting off on foot to their native places, as they don’t have money and resources to complete the journey.
He added that the state government has borne the cost of transporting around 10,000 workers belonging to Madhya Pradesh who were in Telangana. “The Telangana government dropped them at the Maharashtra border. Our government provided them shelter and food and later dropped them at the Madhya Pradesh border. The Maharashtra government did not charge anything for it,” he said.