Pressure mounts on MP govt, restrictions on Maha border lifted for UP and Bihar labourers
An administrative official, who didn’t want to be named, said, “The restrictions were lifted as pressure was mounting with streams of labourers coming from Maharashtra side including labourers from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana too.”Updated: May 12, 2020 12:26 IST
Rising temperature and death of at least 8 migrant workers in the past 20 days have driven Madhya Pradesh government to lift restrictions on the MP-Maharashtra border for labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, officials said.
The influx of migrant labourers, about 25,000 per day on an average, has caused worries to the administration. These labourers are covering hundreds of kilometres travelling or walking through the state up to the UP border. Screening such a large number of workers, including the elderly, women and children, is practically not possible, officials said. Hence, this is an immediate casualty but the administration can’t stop them as they become aggressive leading to law and order problems, the officials added.
Bijasan and Khetia on MP-Maharashtra border are two entry points for people coming from the Maharashtra side. However, more than 90% of labourers enter the state via Bijasan to get to the Agra-Mumbai highway.
Bijasan saw stone-pelting by agitated labourers when they were stopped by the local police on May 3. Many got injured, including at least three police personnel including a sub-inspector. Later, the police lodged an FIR against unidentified 400 migrant labourers for indulging in violence. There have been confrontations between the two sides several times in the past two weeks or so.
Bijasan temple trust and the district administration have arranged food and water for the labourers at the temple premises. The village panchayats, which are situated on either side of Agra-Mumbai highway, have been instructed to set up a tent and also arrange food and water for people travelling or trekking through their areas, the officials said.
An administrative official, who didn’t want to be named, said, “The restrictions were lifted as pressure was mounting with streams of labourers coming from Maharashtra side including labourers from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana too. Whenever we try to stop them they become aggressive and there is a law and order problem. It’s unmanageable when thousands of workers in trucks, mini trucks, loading auto, auto-rickshaws, bicycles and even on foot converge at the border.”
The officer said, “Another problem is when we try to stop the labourers they take different routes through the hilly areas and this result in dehydration and deaths in certain cases. Two labourers died on Saturday. In this scenario, proper screening of labourers for coronavirus is almost impossible. In the beginning, when we quarantined people they became aggressive and caused a lot of problems.”
Sub-divisional magistrate at Sendhwa Ghanshyam Dhangar said, “The major problem that we are facing is the health of labourers affected by dehydration. Eight people died during the past 20 days. Sendhwa has hilly areas. There is a large number of labourers who trek or pedal bicycles for hundreds of kilometres braving about 40 degree Celsius temperature in Maharashtra itself. By the time they reach the border here they get dehydrated. It’s Ramzan time. There have been at least three deaths when labourers didn’t have water the whole day and continued to walk or pedal bicycles. This led to dehydration and they died.”
The SDM said, “So far, we have arranged for labourers, who are walking, to be accommodated in trucks, buses and other vehicles carrying other labourers to Uttar Pradesh. But now we have decided to send such other states’ labourers in our buses to Dewas from where they would be taken to Guna and from there they would be taken to the UP border.”
Superintendent of Police, Barwani district DR Teniwar said, “For four to five days we have allowed entry of people given their huge number. About 25,000 people are coming every day.”
On Sunday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan issued instructions to district collectors to extend all possible facilities to the labourers like food, water and stay, among others.
Chouhan instructed officials, “While trying to understand with full sensitivity the problem of a large number of people travelling on foot, they should be welcomed as guests in the districts and necessary facilities should be provided to them. These kinds of opportunities of service come occasionally in the history of human civilisation. These helpless labourers of other states should be welcomed with an open heart in the heartland of the country.”
However, unlike the MP-Maharashtra border, the MP-Gujarat border in Jhabua has not been witnessing an influx of people from Gujarat after more than 25,000 workers on Dahod side, who wanted the border to be opened, were forced by the Gujarat administration to get back to their places on the assurance that they would be sent back to their destinations in trains.
Collector, Jhabua district Prabal Sepaha said, “None are coming from the Gujarat side now. As far as people of Madhya Pradesh are concerned, about 1.5 lakh labourers hailing from different parts of Madhya Pradesh have come so far.”
However, an administrative official who didn’t want to be named said, “Still there are labourers, though not in a large number, who enter the district through agriculture fields to find their way to Uttar Pradesh via Shivpuri or Datia.”
Collector, Shivpuri district Anugraha P said, “About 5,000 people pass through the district on the highway to UP daily. The UP government opens its border at intervals to allow the labourers to enter the state.”
Those who are coming from Maharashtra take different routes to UP. While a section of them head to UP via Shivpuri and Datia close to Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. There are groups of workers who prefer entering Uttar Pradesh via Sagar, Chhatarpur and Tikamgarh districts in Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh.
Superintendent of Police, Chhatarpur district Kumar Saurabh said, “We have made all the arrangements for labourers like food and water. We send those labourers who are walking in buses up to the UP border.”
(With input from Anupam Pateriya in Sagar)