Migrant workers wait for buses at Delhi Meerut Expressway, near Indirapuram, in Ghaziabad. (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)
Migrant workers wait for buses at Delhi Meerut Expressway, near Indirapuram, in Ghaziabad. (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)

Weekend curfews, restrictions across states spell bad news for migrant workers

  • Lockdown like measures introduced by several state governments meant a loss of livelihood for many migrant workers working in India’s major cities.
By hindustantimes.com | Written by Shankhyaneel Sarkar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 18, 2021 12:48 PM IST

The recent spike in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases across India cast its shadow on trade and business with migrant workers bearing the brunt of strict restrictions put in place by states. Hundreds of migrant workers on Sunday were stranded in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur as the government’s Sunday lockdowns affected public transport. The workers said that the buses were put on election duty due to Uttar Pradesh’s gram panchayat polls.

“Two buses go to Azamgarh in the morning but they are fully packed. The officials told us that all buses are on election duty,” a migrant worker was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. He was among 500 others who were waiting in Kanpur for a bus headed towards Azamgarh.

The Kaushambi Inter-State Bus Terminal over the past few days saw an increased footfall of migrant workers working in Noida, Ghaziabad and Delhi. Some of those men and women said they were travelling back home to cast their votes in the rural body elections and that their return was being spurred by fears of another lockdown. Migrant workers were also seen with their families waiting for buses at Delhi Meerut Expressway, near Indirapuram.

Migrant workers in Gurugram last week also started to leave for their homes after the Haryana government imposed a night curfew in the state. The people returning home to their families in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar said that fears of a lockdown has led them to arrive at this decision. “There is no such information that we will announce a lockdown. So, (it is not clear) why they are getting this impression and taking extreme steps,” Yash Garg, Gurugram’s deputy commissioner told HT.

Key transit points in Delhi like Anand Vihar ISBT and New Delhi railway station also saw large numbers of migrant labourers headed home as they feared that the rise in cases in the Capital would force the city towards another lockdown. “I am noticing the Covid-19 situation closely as it will help me decide when it is best to leave the city. Night curfew has already been imposed, lockdown could be next,” Kumar, a migrant worker told HT.

Lockdown like measures introduced by several state governments meant a loss of livelihood for many migrant workers working in India’s major cities. Migrant workers, who form an essential part of any city’s economy, faced difficulties when the Centre imposed its first lockdown in 2020 following the first wave of Covid-19. Most of them were unable to find transport and had to walk home in desperation and many died due to exertion and lack of food.

The recent surge in Covid-19 cases has adversely affected these workers in all major cities like Mumbai and Delhi. Migrant workers in Mumbai after noticing the surge in cases started leaving for their native states starting at the beginning of this month. Maharashtra continues to see migrant workers leave as the state remains worst-hit by Covid-19.

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