Other States

Coronavirus | By walk and wheel, thousands make it to Madhya Pradesh

For hungry stomachs: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan distributing food packets in Bhopal.

For hungry stomachs: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan distributing food packets in Bhopal.   | Photo Credit: PTI

They endure hunger and cover hundreds of kilometres by foot to reach their hometowns

After enduring hunger for two days, Buddh Singh, a construction worker, set out from Gurugram at 9 p.m. on March 26 on a 580-km journey back to Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh, with no transport in sight because of the lockdown.

Carrying two pairs of shirts and pants in a backpack, the 19-year-old, along with three others, walked 204 km through four States. And like them, 34,500 construction and agricultural labourers returned home in the north-western districts of Madhya Pradesh from Haryana, the National Capital Region and Uttar Pradesh, walking and riding on lorries and buses.

State Helpline numbers | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

Mr. Singh’s group reached Chhatarpur on Sunday midnight after a four-day ordeal. At the outset, they walked from Gurugram to Badshahpur, from where they reached Palwal in Haryana by van. After walking 87 km to Mathura, they got a truck to Agra. A Uttar Pradesh government bus dropped them at the district borders, from where they walked 40 km towards Gwalior, before boarding another truck. Again, they walked 20 km towards Jhansi, boarded a pick-up truck, which broke down within 10 km, and after walking for some more distance, got a bus which left them 20 km from Chhatarpur, where Mr. Singh’s sister lives.

Charitable restaurants and shopkeepers fed biscuits and meals to them and thousands of others returning to Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh on the same route till Agra. “After the lockdown was imposed, the work was suspended, our landlord asked us to leave, the contractor stopped taking calls, and we had to return,” says Mr. Singh, who made ₹300 a day for plastering walls.

“More than 8,000 workers have returned mostly from Uttar Pradesh and the NCR since the beginning of March,” said Himanshu Chandra, CEO, Zilla Panchayat, Chhatarpur. “We are not allowing anyone to leave the district, and have made arrangements for everyone’s food and stay here.”

Gwalior was the main gateway to Madhya Pradesh for those returning from the north as they took the National Highway no. 3 from Agra to Mumbai, explained Madhu Solapurkar, Assistant Director, Public Relations Department, Gwalior district. “At check posts, we are screening workers for illness and giving them food. Most are returning on foot.” Buses sent by various district administrations are bringing them back from Gwalior.

An official of Tikamgarh district, requesting anonymity, said the lockdown had caused panic among workers, making them return in droves unseasonally. “So far 10,000-12,000 of the 15,000 local workers who had gone to other States had returned, with around 2,500 workers entering the district every day,” he said.

In the usual course only a member would return for the ongoing harvest season, not the whole family, as seen during the lockdown, he added “We are pasting quarantine posters outside every worker’s house, and if local officials see them violate prohibitory orders, a case will be registered against them.”

Sealed borders

Since March 18, more than 4,000 workers had returned to Shivpuri district, said H.P. Verma, CEO, Zilla Panchayat, Shivpuri district. “Now, we have sealed borders and will offer food and medical care in quarantine centres to those stuck here from other districts,” he added.

“So far we have screened 10,500 workers who’re put in home isolation,” said Shubham Sharma, Deputy Collector, Bhind district. “And 237 workers from other districts and States were made to stay in isolation centres on Monday. At this point, we are not allowing them to cross over in view of the lockdown.”

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 3:12:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-by-walk-and-wheel-thousands-make-it-to-madhya-pradesh/article31211690.ece

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