Pipparwada toll plaza a mute witness to migrant exodus

Homeward bound migrant walking on NH 44 near the Pipparwada toll plaza in Adilabad.

Homeward bound migrant walking on NH 44 near the Pipparwada toll plaza in Adilabad.   | Photo Credit: S_HARPALSINGH

The facility resumed operations just four days after lockdown was announced

Like any other toll plaza, the one at Pipparwada on NH-44, falling in Jainad mandal here, about 4 km inside the inter-State border with Maharashtra, wore a deserted look once tolling operations were suspended on March 26 owing to the COVID-19 lockdown. However, unlike other toll plazas, this facility began reporting human activity just after four days and became a mute witness to momentous exodus for the next 45 days.

The first of the migrant workers who had set off on foot from Hyderabad for their home in central and northern States began crossing this landmark while moving towards the Penganga river bridge at Dollara before crossing into Maharashtra. These workers walked close to 315 km to cross this post, strangely escaping observation.

By the end of April first week, the toll plaza became deserted again as the workers hoped to go home, believing that public transport will resume at the end of the second edition of lockdown on April 15. This was not to be as the lockdown was extended and what began was an exodus of workers in the true sense.

This phase had the migrants covering part of the distance by hitching rides on lorries. Thousands of workers got dropped off on Adilabad bypass road or the stretch of NH-44 between Chanda (T) junction and Pipparwada toll plaza.

“As more workers began converging at the toll plaza, it became somewhat easy for us to organise transport for them. As every lorry needed to make a stop for payment of toll, we got enough time to impress upon the drivers to take at least some passengers on board,” recalled T. Suresh Babu, a senior engineer of Soma Enterprises Limited, who is among those who excelled in organising transport for the hapless migrants.

In the third phase of exodus, the activity intensified and thousands of migrant workers were being sent in lorries from Hyderabad itself. But the journey of most got terminated at Pipparwada toll plaza and it was from here that they got a lift for their onward journey.

The activities of the civil society, too, got concentrated at the toll plaza once it gained in prominence as a milling point for the workers. All groups serving food and water converged at Pipparwada to cater to more migrants.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 3:26:23 AM |

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