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Coronavirus lockdown | Numbers of migrant workers walking on NH16 through Odisha dwindle

Operation Sugam is an initiative taken up by the Ganjam District Rural Development Agency, in association with local social-service organisations, to ensure that no migrant worker was required to walk in Odisha.

Operation Sugam is an initiative taken up by the Ganjam District Rural Development Agency, in association with local social-service organisations, to ensure that no migrant worker was required to walk in Odisha.  

Increase in train and bus services has led to the disbanding of ‘Operation Sugam’ to facilitate their passage, but help is still provided

There has been a significant fall in the number of migrant workers walking or cycling back from the southern States to their home States on National Highway 16 (NH16) via Odisha. This has coincided with an increase in train services as well as the plying of more buses on the highway. As a result, ‘Operation Sugam’, started in Odisha’s Ganjam district on May 13, was discontinued from May 31.

Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants

Operation Sugam was the timely initiative taken up by the Ganjam District Rural Development Agency in association with local social service organisations — YSD, ARUNA, ISARA and PREM — to ensure no migrant worker was required to walk in Odisha. Migrant workers trudging along NH16 were provided bus transport for 100 km —from the Andhra Pradesh border to the Ganjam-Khurda district border in Odisha. They were also provided cooked and dry food, drinking water, and other basic necessities, before they boarded the buses to Khurda.

Also Read | Migrant workers returning to Ganjam in large numbers

“We had expected the flow of walking migrant workers on NH16 would increase after May 23 or 24 but that did not occur. So, large-scale arrangements for ‘Operation Sugam’ were discontinued,” said YSD’s Bibhu Prasad Sahu.

Now, when needed, vehicles are being arranged for the transportation of migrant workers entering Ganjam district from Andhra Pradesh.

Some still seen

Some migrant worker groups can still be seen walking into Ganjam district through the Girisola inter-State check-gate. Most of them say they reached the Odisha-Andhra border by trucks, got down at the check-gate, and walked into Odisha.

On Wednesday, most of the migrant workers sighted near the inter-State border were travelling from different parts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to their homes in West Bengal, Bihar or Jharkhand. Munna Singh, a worker from Jharkhand, said they preferred to take a lift on different trucks to reach Odisha from Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.

Till May 26, there were, on average, over 200 migrant workers in the tents erected near the Golanthara police station to provide them with rest and food. On Wednesday, there were only 30-40 workers left at the facility. Local police is arranging buses to take them to the borders of their respective States.

Also Read | Truck drivers are often angels in disguise on NH16

At Haldiapadar, the administration has made arrangements to transport migrant workers returning to Odisha to their respective districts.

In May, most of the buses carrying migrant workers were travelling from south Indian States to Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand. Now, buses with migrant workers can also be seen undertaking the southward journey via Ganjam district.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 9:35:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-lockdown-numbers-of-migrant-workers-walking-on-nh16-through-odisha-dwindle/article31741246.ece

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