After a night-long ordeal, migrant workers leaving for their native places were on Sunday given the facility of transport in the roadways buses till the inter-State borders of Rajasthan, reducing their agony of walking long distances on foot. Buses brought from various depots were sanitised before the passengers boarded them on the outskirts of Jaipur.
Thousands of jobless labourers from the city’s industrial areas, including Sitapura, Vishwakarma, Mansarovar, Malviya Nagar and Bagru, waited through the night at four pick-up points after being told that arrangements were being made for ferrying them. The labourers spent the night on roads without food and water.
“A police van made an announcement in our area yesterday that those willing to travel by bus could reach Dugrapura, but there was no arrangement. Then we were told to come to this pick-up point,” Irshad Ali, 24, belonging to Bihar’s Supaul district, told The Hindu at Transport Nagar from where the buses left for the Uttar Pradesh border.
Mr. Ali and 20 other labourers were laid off by the cloth factory owner when the unit stopped operations since the nationwide lockdown started. Mahendra Singh, another labourer, said he and his colleagues had no money to pay rent for their rooms or buy ration for cooking food. “It is a matter of survival for us. We can fight the disease if we remain alive,” he said.
The Rajasthan Roadways pressed over 600 of its buses into service and also brought private buses for transporting migrant workers to the borders of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
A group of hotel management students from Delhi, on an internship at a luxury hotel here, reached Kunda on Jaipur-Delhi National Highway with the hope that they would be able to join their families, which were worried about them.
However, Rajasthan Roadways chairman Naveen Jain said the bus services, which were free, were only meant for migrant labourers who were on roads and wanted to go home. Twenty buses were reserved in each depot across the State for the purpose, while checkpoints were established in the border districts to receive the workers coming from the neighbouring States.
Dinesh Kumar, 34, waiting with his wife and two children at Transport Nagar, said the contractor who had hired him for the building repair work at the Rajasthan High Court had flatly told him that there would be no scope for jobs over the next two months. “As there is no work for us here and we are running out of our savings, we are going to our parents’ home in Dholpur,” he said.
Civil rights groups here demanded that camps be started and food, water and resting places be arranged for the unorganised sector labourers at the inter-State borders during the present mass migration. “Children and women accompanying the labourers need it the most, as we have converted a public health issue into a human tragedy,” People’s Union of Civil Liberties-Rajasthan president Kavita Srivastava said.
While the activists alleged that the State government’s “callous attitude” had led to utter confusion, the issue of the Uttar Pradesh government refusing the labourers’ entry into their home State remained unresolved. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said Rajasthan had decided to facilitate the safe journey of inter-State migrants to their home towns on the directions of the Union Home Ministry.
Mr. Gehlot urged the Centre to intervene and give necessary directions to all States as given to Rajasthan. He said the State government was well-prepared and equipped to take care of all the migrant labourers in the present hour of health crisis.