Mass Exodus Of Migrant Workers Begin From Mumbai, Pune Due To Lockdown Chaos
Migrant workers waiting to return to their home states are queuing at train reservation counters at Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, where non-essential businesses are closed until April 30 as part of Maharashtra’s new Covid-19 restrictions (CSMT).
The state government has increased the state’s night curfew. From 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., a night curfew will be imposed. According to government officials, anyone who breaks the rules will be fined 500 rupees.
Train Services Could Be Stopped Like Last Year?
Migrant workers say the measures are identical to last year’s, and thus will affect their salaries, as Maharashtra continues to have the highest daily new Covid-19 cases in the world. Many employees have shown an interest in moving home. Some residents started fleeing the city two days ago, anticipating a lockdown.
Some people expressed a desire to leave as soon as possible, fearing that train service would be suspended, as it was last year. Thousands of migrant workers flocked to the stations in 2020, hoping to catch trains to Bihar, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh. Officials at the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) in Kurla, where trains depart for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, said the number of passengers has increased.
“Since the pandemic began, we started an advance booking system even for the second class compartment to reduce crowding. People will need to book tickets in advance to board a train,” a Central Railway official said.
Travellers can enter platforms only if they have valid tickets.
“There have been many queries today from people who want to catch a train to UP and Bihar. I told them to get reserved tickets,” a railway employee at LTT said.
Even If Stranded, Workers Need Valid Tickets!
Niyaz Ahmed, a 30-year-old from Lucknow, said while waiting in line at LTT on Tuesday afternoon told The Indian Express “I sold lemon juice on Mohamed Ali road. I have been in Mumbai for 15 years. I have a wife and one child back home. I am homeless and lived on the street. Now I have no source of income. Back home I will have no job but at least I will get food twice a day. Here I will die hungry. They are saying there is no ticket. I will go without a ticket and pay the fine if the ticket checker catches me.”
Suraj Yadav, 22, and Krishna Kumar Namdev, 33, both of Satna, Madhya Pradesh, rushed to the reservation counter to purchase tickets, just like Ahmed. They decided to sleep on the platform because there were no tickets left.
Yadav said: “We worked in a small hotel in Nerul. The owner said he will not pay us but will provide for our food. What can we do, sir? We cannot wait, we have to leave. I do not know if we will get work back in the village but will have to do something like farming.”
As the ticket counter at CSMT closed on Tuesday night, a group of Bihar caterers looked frustrated and nervous. They’ll have to stay at the station overnight until the counter reopens the next day.
One of them, Rajesh Kumar Das, 36, said, “We work in hotels and catering service at CSMT. Our boss asked 60 of us to return home. Now, what do we do? We cannot afford to stay here. I will try to go in the general compartment.”
Shivaji Sutar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Central Railway, told The Indian Express, “In view of Covid-19, we have permitted only passengers with confirmed tickets to travel. Announcement of additional trains, if any, at certain places is only part of the ongoing gradual restoration of train services. We appeal to everyone to avoid speculation over the reasons and not resort to panic booking.”
A central railway official, requesting anonymity, said that trains to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were fully booked for the next few days.