Monday, 30th October 2017

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Coronavirus lockdown: Lakhs stranded on highway

While officials claimed the bus service was up and running, many of the stranded migrants said they had seen no sign of it

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 29.03.20, 3:19 AM
  • Updated 29.03.20, 3:19 AM
  • 2 mins read
Passengers wait for busses at Charbag bus stand during the nationwide lockdown in Lucknow Saturday. (PTI)

At least three lakh migrants were stranded in Ghaziabad and Noida on Saturday evening, stopped by Uttar Pradesh police on Friday after the unemployed workers and their families had set off on foot for their homes, hundreds of miles away.

Entire families, including women and toddlers, were squatting on the highways and hoping the police would either let them continue with their long walk home or arrange buses.

The Yogi Adityanath government said on Saturday morning it had arranged 1,000 buses to ferry migrant workers and their families, adding that the chief minister had stayed up all night to monitor this. But while officials claimed the bus service was up and running, many of the stranded migrants said they had seen no sign of it.

The lockdown made it difficult to independently verify how many buses were running and how often.

“I appeal to the migrant labourers to stay wherever they are to make the lockdown a success. They must not put their own lives and their family members’ in danger,” Adityanath said.

Shakuntala Devi, a woman carrying a three-month-old baby, told reporters: “I belong to Shajahanpur. The police had told me and others on Friday morning that a bus would take us home on Saturday morning. It’s afternoon and we are still waiting, without food or water.”

A.K. Singh, regional manager of the state transport department in Ghaziabad,

said: “Some 150 buses took migrants to their homes from the Lalkuan bus stand (in Ghaziabad) in the past 24 hours. We will be bringing more buses soon.”

Ankit Mishra, a labourer from Ballia stranded in Ghaziabad, said he had heard a “rumour” in Delhi about buses being available at Lalkuan and had rushed there on Friday evening with many others.

“There were no buses. Many other migrant workers from my village had arrived there on Friday morning but didn’t find any bus,” Mishra, 25, told reporters at 3.30pm on Saturday.

“We are running out of cash and need to reach home as soon as possible — at least we won’t die of hunger there. We can walk if allowed, but the police are beating us and asking us to sleep on the roadside and not go anywhere.”

Ghaziabad senior superintendent of police Kalanidhi Naithani said: “We are providing food packets to the people stranded here.”

A home department official in Lucknow said the situation was worsening with each passing day. “Besides the three lakh people on the highways, another three lakh from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are following the railway tracks to their homes,” he said.

Nitish against buses

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said the move to make special buses available to stranded migrant workers would help the virus spread. “Sending people via special buses is a bad step. It will spread the disease and create problems for everybody in checking or tackling it. This decision will cause a complete failure of the lockdown,” Nitish said in a statement.