THROWING SOCIAL distancing norms to the winds, a truck carrying 72 people was intercepted on Bathinda border on Sunday morning. It was coming from Gwalior.
The 72 people belong to Punjab and had gone to work in Madhya Pradesh villages as combine drivers or as foremen and machine men in manufacturing units of agricultural implements. They claimed the trucker charged each one of them Rs 2,500 — a total of Rs 1.80 lakh — for transporting them from Gwalior to their respective districts of Ludhiana, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Tarn Taran and Amritsar.
Deputy Commissioner B Srinivasan said, “We did medical examination of all the 72 people, provided them with food and water. Later, we arranged buses for them for their safe return to their respective cities. We have intimated districts concerned about their arrival so that they can follow health protocol accordingly.”
The Bathinda police booked the driver and impounded the truck. Gaurav Vansh, SHO of Bathinda Thermal police station, said, “We have booked truck driver Jagdish Singh and even his owner in Gwalior. Due action will be taken as per law.”
A combine driver from Ludhiana whose face was covered said, “I live at Ladhowal village of Ludhiana. I had gone to Gwalior three months back and was feeling homesick. I was working as a combine driver and now there was no work left for me in the village. Therefore, there was no point in staying there. I had been trying for the past many days to come back. This driver met us a few days back. Each one of us paid him Rs 2,500 each to come back to Punjab.”
Another person who was working as a foreman said, “We were packed into the truck last night along with our luggage. We were told that we will be dropped at our respective districts entry points, from where we were supposed to manage on our own. However, the truck driver tried to forcibly drop us on Bathinda border. When we objected, an argument ensued between us and the truck driver. In the meantime, cops came and took us to a quarantine centre at a private school of Bathinda.”
A few workers from Tarn Taran with faces covered with handkerchiefs and eyes filled with tears said, “We knew we were violating social distancing norms, but we had no choice as we wanted to be home. We had not been able to come back for the past three months and there had been no work for the past one month.”
Bathinda Tehsildar Sukhbir Singh Brar said, “We arranged buses for all workers after providing them food and water. They were in mental distress and we counselled them as well.”
18 coming from Kota intercepted
Police intercepted 18 workers at Bhavwala checkpost of Fazilka district on Saturday midnight. They had been coming on foot from Kota and wanted to go back to their home districts. Their medical examination was done and the police arranged food for them. “They were sent in a vehicle arranged by DC office. Out of these 18 workers, 14 were from Ferozepur, three from Ludhiana and one from Tarn Taran. No money was charged from them for sending them back home in bus arranged by Fazilka administration. Their districts have been intimated about their arrival. They did not cover the entire distance by foot. They took lift as well,” SSP Fazilka Harjit Singh said.