Several people gathered at Ghazipur near the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on Saturday, 28 March, as people waited to board special buses arranged by the Uttar Pradesh government for their native districts in Uttar Pradesh, ANI reported.
Thousands of migrant and daily wage workers crossed over to Uttar Pradesh on Friday, 27 March, and many others waited to do so, desperate to return to their distant villages even if it meant walking the entire way home.
The Uttar Pradesh government said that it has arranged as many as 1000 buses to take the migrant workers to their respective hometowns amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Transportation officers, bus drivers and conductors were called by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Friday night to make all the arrangements, the government said.
Buses Arrived in Lucknow, Later Left for Kanpur, Varanasi
On Saturday morning, senior police officers reached the Charbagh bus station in Lucknow to ensure that those arriving there were provided with food and water, PTI reported.
The buses later left for Kanpur, Ballia, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Faizabad, Basti, Pratapgarh, Sultanpur, Amethi, Rae Bareli, Gonda, Etawah, Bahraich and Shravasti.
State's DGP Hitesh Chandra Awasthi and Lucknow Police Commissioner Sujit Kumar Pande were personally present at the bus station to monitor the arrangements, an official spokesman said.
Further, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia visited Ghazipur on Saturday and told ANI, "We have also provided some DTC buses to transport them. I urge people to stay put where they are.”
He also mentioned that the Delhi government has started converting schools in Ghazipur into night shelters to accommodate people. “I request people to not leave their homes or shanties. Homeless people can stay at night shelters. We have the capacity to feed the people of entire Delhi,” he added.
At the Ghazipur border, the migrant and daily wage workers huddled close together, only some with masks aware of the coronavirus threat that had led to an unprecedented 21-day lockdown of the country and taken away their jobs, but helpless to do anything about combating the infection.
Around 10,000 Migrant Workers Crossed Over: Police
Around 10,000 migrant workers from Delhi and Gurgaon crossed over on Friday, said a police official at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghazipur where many waited to enter the state, PTI reported.
The Delhi government was making arrangements to feed the workers and they did not need to leave the city, Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain told NDTV.
Most were men but there were also some women and children who had left their homes for a better livelihood working as construction labourers, factory workers, vegetable vendors, rickshaw pullers and a myriad other jobs.
Dhanraj, 35, began his 570-km journey home to Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh from Najafgarh in west Delhi on Friday afternoon. He earned Rs 300-400 a day fitting iron rods at construction sites but the little savings he had are gone.
“I have no money and my landlord asked me to pay the rent. He said if I could not pay the rent, then I should vacate the room. My contractor also said he has no money to give me, so it is best to go back home. And I have no option but to walk all the way,” Dhanraj told PTI.
Buses Reserved for Essential Services
Fearing the spread of the infection, police officials asked many workers not to make the journey. But many said they had no option and tried to hoodwink the police.
There were buses but some of the workers said they were not allowed to board them as they were reserved for essential services. Inter-state road transport remains suspended.
Many said they would make it, one way or the other, hopefully hitching a ride on a truck for part of the way or depending on the generosity of strangers for food.
Amid reports of mass exodus of migrant workers to their villages, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Friday urged the government to help them reach their homes.
In a video message, Gandhi said she was pained to see the migrant workers walk for many kilometres. “A tragic situation is unfolding on the border of Delhi, with thousands of people leaving for their homes on foot with no means, no food,” she tweeted.
“They are poor people and is it not our duty to help them?” Priyanka asked.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)