240 migrants take forest routes in Kumaon to reach UP, Bihar; caught
Stranded migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who had come to Kumaon to earn a livelihood from mining activities in the Gaula river area, are now using forest routes to go back to their native places and evade police action amid lockdown.
Over 240 such migrant labourers who were going to their homes on foot were stopped by villagers and police in Shaktifarm area of US Nagar on Thursday. The migrants said due to the lockdown they neither had money nor food and were suffering from a lot of problems. The police have sent them back after giving them food.
Thousands of labourers come from different parts of UP and Bihar to earn a livelihood from mining-related activities in Guala river area in Nainital and US Nagar district every year. Labourers have been stranded this year due to the lockdown. They have been sitting completely idle and suffering from acute financial crisis. In such a distressing condition, they wanted to return to their native places and began using forest routes.
Fed up with continuous unemployment and financial crisis amid lockdown, a large number of labourers from UP and Bihar set out on foot to their native places through forest routes, but were stopped by villagers and police. They used the forest routes instead of main roads to dodge the police and avoid police action.
“We were brought by a contractor here for mining but work has been stopped due to the lockdown. We have been sitting idle and facing financial problems for the last 47 days. So we felt it was better to return to our villages,” said Mangal Rajbhar, a resident of Azamgarh in UP. He was part of the group of labourers which was stopped by villagers in Shaktifarm area.
“Since we ran out of money and to avoid strict police action, we chose forest routes. We were determined to cover hundreds of kilometres distance on foot. There is no hope of mining work reopening here and if we stay here for more weeks we will start starving. If we reach our villages, at least we will live comfortably there despite unemployment,” Ramesh Prasad, another labourer said.
Since there is no mode of transport available and fear of action by the police for attempting to cross the sealed border between UP and Uttarakhand, these labourers chose the forest routes and set out on foot for their destinations instead of main roads.
“The registration process is on by the administration for such stranded labourers to drop them to their native places, but due to lack of awareness they set out on foot,” said an official.
“We told them that it is better to go back because even the UP administration will not spare them following the violation of lockdown. They will face unnecessary police action there. When we persuaded them, they agreed to go back by bus to Nainital district. They had reached here in two groups and arrived in Shaktifarm and Nanakmatta through the forest,” Vivek Prakash, sub-divisional magistrate, Sitarganj said.