Maharashtra government organises special buses for migrants

Thousands queue up at Thane for a ride home

Politics

May 13, 2020

/ By / Mumbai

special buses for migrants

Crowds of migrants gather at Thane to take the bus that will help them get home (MIG photos/ Varsha Singh)

For the third day running, the Maharashtra government organised over 100 buses to ferry migrants who have been blocked in Mumbai ever since the lockdown was announced nearly two months ago.

The crowds had begun gathering at the junction of highway to Nashik at Majiwada in Thane city from last evening itself as thousands of people, many with children and infants, lined up hoping to get a chance to board the buses that would take them to the border with Madhya Pradesh.

At around 10:30 pm, when the crowds seemed likely to get restive and unmanageable, the police officers present on site told them to disperse and come again in the morning as no buses would be leaving that night. Within minutes, the crowds had disappeared.

But by 8 am on Wednesday, a similar scene was visible at Majiwada as even a bigger crowd milled around, waiting for the promised buses that would ferry them nearly 360 km to Shirpur on the border with Madhya Pradesh.

Most of the people were impatient to go back to their villages or home towns as they could not survive in Mumbai anymore since all economic activities had come to a complete standstill and everyone seemed to have run out of the little savings that they had managed to build up after years of struggle in the Dream City.

Awdhesh Singh, an auto driver in late forties who lives in Thane says that he has no option but to leave. “I came to Mumbai in 2008 to become an auto driver and since then have been living here. After the lockdown began I managed to survive with the little money I saved. Now nearly two months without any work, I don’t have any money left with me. Even though the Prime Minister announced some relief fund in everybody’s account I haven’t received any. I had to ask people in my village to send some money to me so that I could manage a few days here. Some days people from charitable trusts would distribute khichdi (a mix of rice and lentils with vegetables) but that was also not on a regular basis. I have four mouths to feed and if I continue living in Mumbai I don’t know how I will do that. This is the only reason why I am going to my village in Allahabad as I know over there one way or the other I can feed my family. The bus will drop me at Madhya Pradesh border and from there we are hoping that the MP government will arrange for transportation till Uttar Pradesh.”

Awdhesh Singh and his family are simply relieved to be on their way home to Allahabad

Jyoti, who is from Harda district in Madhya Pradesh, says that she had come to visit her relatives in Mumbai and enjoy some sightseeing but has been stuck here due to the lockdown. “I had come to Mumbai for a small vacation. Little did I know that it will turn into a long punishment. The only relief was that I was stuck here at my relative’s house otherwise I don’t know how I would have survived this lockdown. I am glad the government started these bus services.”

Kumar, who is a worker in a garment factory in Thane, says that he never imagined that he would face such a situation. “I have no intention of staying here as I won’t be able to survive. We are not even sure when the lockdown will end as the government keeps on extending it. I have not been paid for the past two months and it’s getting really difficult for people like us to handle the lockdown. I am from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and I know that somehow I can manage to survive once I am back to my village.”

The Maharashtra government has so far run over 300 buses benefitting over 15,000 persons by dropping them at the border with MP and an official of the state road transport corporation says the government would increase the number of buses in service in the near future, lending a crucial helping hand to thousands of migrants who are still walking back home, unsure of getting any help from the government that has been completely oblivious to the problems that it created for hundreds of millions of poor across the nation through its disastrous handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the never ending, but entirely unplanned lockdown.

However, most of the workers say that they have little choice but to come back to Mumbai once this situation turns normal. “I will come back to Mumbai as this is the only job I have. I manage to make a decent living out of it and would continue to do that,” says the auto driver, Singh.

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