Amid a massive spike in COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra, migrant workers have started returning to home fearing another lockdown could be imposed by the government. The Uddhav Thackeray government has already announced a slew of restrictions, including night curfews and weekend lockdowns, till April 30 to curtail the rapid spread of infection. The western state reported as many as 56,000 cases in the last 24 hours, highest by any state. A total of 376 people lost their lives due to infection.
The restrictions have forced migrant workers to return home. News agency ANI reported that huge crowds are seen at several Mumbai railway stations where labourers throng to catch trains for their hometown. Long-distance trains departing from Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) are heavily packed with scores of migrant workers.
The reverse migration has caught the attention of the administration. The Central Railways on Wednesday announced to run special trains to ferry migrants who are planning to head back to their hometown. The national transporter has also increased the frequency of trains that are heading towards northern states.
“Passengers are also advised to adhere to all norms, standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to Covid-19 during boarding, travel and at destination,” Shivaji Sutar, CPRO, Central Railways, said.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) too has taken account of the situation and reached out to the local administration to prevent another reverse migration of workers. The PMO, local administration and Railways are working on an elaborate plan to prevent the exodus of labourers from major cities, including Mumbai. The PMO is concerned about the migrant workers and wants to prevent mass exodus of workers which resulted in loss of jobs and human miseries last year.
A migrant worker who was travelling in an Uttar Pradesh bound train from Mumbai told news agency ANI, “This train will go to Gorakhpur. We are leaving the city because COVID-19 cases are rising.”
“We are leaving for our hometown in Uttar Pradesh. As of now, there is a night curfew in place. It is very likely that a lockdown will be put into place. To avoid chaos like the previous lockdown, we are travelling back to our native place. Not sure when, whether we will come back,” another migrant worker told ANI.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam has said that the state government is not planning a complete lockdown and therefore migrants shouldn’t rush back.
“Many of them fear that a lockdown will be imposed in the state due to rising Covid cases. However, our state government has no such plans. We do not want businesses or small businessmen to incur losses. Many of them have not even got themselves tested for Covid-19 and have boarded the train illegally. We are looking into the situation. However, I can assure you that none of them can return back to our state without showing a Covid negative report,” he said.
In another related development, the Central Railway on Friday announced to suspend the platform ticket facility at several Mumbai stations.
Maharashtra reported 56,286 new Covid-19 cases, 36,130 recoveries, and 376 deaths in the last 24 hours, the state health department informed on Thursday. Out of 56,286 new Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra, 8,938 cases were reported in Mumbai and 12,090 in Pune.
According to the data of Union Health Ministry, India on Friday recorded a massive surge of 1,31,968 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours. With this, India’s tally now stands at 13,060,542. India is now the 4th-worst hit country in terms of active cases. As many as 780 people succumbed to the infection, highest since October 18, taking the death toll to 1,67,642.
(With inputs from ANI)