April 26, 2020 4:45:35 am
A DAY after Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh announced plans to bring back their migrant workers stuck in other states, a coordinated exercise began to ensure the same. While 2,000-odd boarded buses in Haryana for western UP, around a similar number headed home from Gujarat for MP. On a smaller scale, Himachal Pradesh organised return of Kashmiri labourers stuck in the state.
Haryana DGP Manoj Yadava told The Sunday Express “the movement of migrant labourers was organised after mutual consultation between the two state governments”. “They were first checked and nobody showed any symptoms… This movement will go on for four-five days.”
The migrants will be subjected to another 14-day quarantine at their destinations.
Yadava also said that UP had got the movement cleared with the Union Home Ministry. “The Central government has said that if the states, with mutual consultation, decide to send/receive migrants, it has no problem. Their only clause is that quarantine should have been completed.”
The DGP added that of the 16,000-odd migrants in Haryana’s shelter homes, around 12,000 were from Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Kumar Awasthi said they expected 11,000 migrants to return by Sunday. The nodal officers appointed by UP to help stranded people in 16 states have been receiving frantic calls enquiring about when they will be taken back.
MP, which estimates that nearly one lakh of its migrants are stranded, has started getting them back first from neighbouring Gujarat and Rajasthan, which will drop them to its borders. By Saturday night, 98 buses carrying 2,400 workers from Gujarat were expected to reach Alirajpur and Jhabua in MP, while 600-odd workers from Rajasthan were to reach Sawai Madhopur.
MP Additional Chief Secretary ICP Keshri said it will take some days before all workers return, “but we are on the job”. “The plans will change depending on the circumstances.”
This new coordination is a striking change from when the sea of migrant labourers leaving on foot soon after the announcement of the lockdown had seen sparring between UP and Delhi governments.
From Haryana, most of the migrants left from Yamunanagar, Gurugram, Faridabad, Rewari, Panchkula, Sonipat, Rohtak and Jhajjar districts. They are bound for western UP districts such as Agra, Aligarh, Amroha, Baghpat and Meerut. While a few of the buses dropped them on the UP-Haryana border, others went into UP and dropped them at the district headquarters.
Sources said migrants from other states stuck in Haryana are also pleading to be sent home, which could pose a problem. A senior officer said, “A large number of them had initially agreed to work in the industries or fields, but most of them withdrew their consent after they realised that the government had started making arrangements to drop them to their native places.”
At a video-conference with District Magistrates, UP CM Yogi Adityanath said on Friday that the state estimated that five-10 lakh migrant workers to return over the next two months. On Saturday, Adityanath held meetings with officials on creating “15 lakh employment opportunities” in villages for the people returning.
The UP nodal officer in-charge of helplines for migrant labourers in Kerala said the calls had increased since the CM’s announcement. “People have become restless,” an official said. Similar calls are flooding nodal officials for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. An official said they were keeping a record of all the people calling. “We are noting down where they are stranded.”
Asked how they would coordinate the return of migrants from far-off states, like in the South, Chief Minister’s media advisor Mrityunjay Kumar said, “It depends on how the state governments respond… For each state, a different strategy will have to be devised.”
The MP-bound migrants were headed from Vadodara in 16 buses to a check-post between the two states. Vadodara District Collector Shalini Agarwal said they had coordinated with the administration in MP for sending the labourers back.
Apart from Vadodara, migrants left for MP from Chhota Udepur, Dahod and the Panchmahals in Gujarat. Vadodara Municipal Commissioner Nalin Upadhyay said similar arrangements would be made to send back labourers from Rajasthan and UP, after coordination was finalised with them.
MP also began facilitating homeward journey of nearly 10,000 workers stranded in different districts of the state, as well as started e-pass to allow people to bring back their relatives or children stranded outside. “We will not let our workers walk (long distance),” Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
One Vadodara trust running a shelter camp organised a farewell of sorts for the migrant labourers who left Saturday, giving away boxes of sweets and serving aaloo-puris. Magi Bhuriya, 40, from Thandla in MP said, “They took good care of us. But we want to go home. I want to see my children.”
Anurag Patel (25), from Satna, said he would share the sweets with his family. “I cannot believe this day is finally here. I will see my parents and sister in 24 hours, if all goes well.”
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