Families of thousands of migrant workers, including women and children of all ages, who walked long distances along the Delhi-Jaipur Highway carrying suitcases, bags and sacks on their heads, thronged the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway at Pachgaon here on Sunday.
They desperately looked for means to return home in adjoining States after they were turned away by the police on Delhi-Gurugram border.
Stranded at Pachgaon, Chandra Bhan Yadav, a worker at a paints company in Gurugram’s Khandsa, said that he, along with his family members, including his wife and an eight-year-old girl, was walking towards Anand Vihar bus stand in Delhi to catch a bus to Kanpur, but the police turned him away at the Delhi-Gurugram border.
He said he had exhausted all his savings and did not have enough to afford even two square meals a day for his family. “I cannot afford to even pay the rent this month. I have no choice but to return home,” said Yadav, carrying his daughter on the back. He said he was prepared to walk all the way to Kanpur.
Dotting around a 60-km stretch from Delhi-Gurugram border to Pachgaon, the families of the workers, walking in hordes, had a similar stories to narrate. “We have no knowledge about the night shelters opened by the district administration. It is any way, better to go back home than to stay at night shelters,” said daily-wage worker Ashish Mishra. He was part of a group of nine, including a woman and a three-year-old child, which sat under a tree at Jharsa Chowk. He claimed that they too were turned away by the police at Delhi-Gurugram border.
Many workers also feared that the shutdown of non-essential services could be extended well beyond April 14 and it was, thus, “better to leave”.
The Gurugram district administration had pressed into service the buses of Gurugram Metropolitan City Bus Limited to drop the workers and their families at Pachgaon. Most of them walked to the KMP Expressway taking little breaks in between. The police too had been flagging down private vehicles at the barricades on the NH-48, pleading with the drivers to drop the stranded workers at the KMP Expressway. The workers had to queue up for screening with thermal scanners before they were allowed to cross over to the other side of the toll plaza on the KMP Expressway at Pachgaon.
Ajay, a resident of Kakrola, said the neighbouring villages had been running community kitchen for the families of stranded workers and also ferrying them to the toll plaza on the KMP Expressway, around 2 km away. “We provide them food, tea, milk and biscuits. The people have been thronging the KMP Expressway for the past two days,” said Mr. Ajay. The district administration teams were also involved in providing food to the workers.
Police teams on the KMP Expressway had been flagging down the trucks and personal vehicles to arrange for the travel of the workers till Palwal.
Meanwhile, the district administration converted 19 community centres across the city into “relief centres”, in addition to the night shelters, to prevent the exodus. As many as 23 volunteer teams were involved in providing food, water and medical support to the workers.