Covid Blues

Fearing lockdown, migrants pack their bags to go home again

Private bus operators milking the situation, plying buses to different places in UP & Bihar

Tribune News Service

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 21

Fearing another lockdown, migrants have started returning to their native places. However, unlike last year, there is no panic among them this time.

Hasan, a mason, who was returning to his native town Purnia, said: “The surge in positive cases in the wake of Covid-19 second wave has compelled me to return to my parental home.”

Raju, who works at a textile factory, said all of a sudden factories have reduced their work time from five to three and even two days a week. To save operating cost of factories, many units have shut down. He said they were paid on the basis of meters of cloth rolled out. Calculating all these factors, it was apparent that their income would drastically come down. Hence, it would not be economically viable to stay.

To make the most out of the situation, some private public transporters have started plying buses to various destinations in UP and Bihar. The Railways runs only 12 pairs of trains on a daily average, of which only a couple of trains travel to UP and Bihar. So, booking a berth in these trains is an uphill task.

They have installed display boards informing passengers that they are plying buses to Muradabad, Bareilly, Paliya, Nanpara, Muzzafarpur, Darbangha and Purnia. The charges per seat in these buses depend upon the number of passengers present at the time of departure. These buses depart for their destinations in the evening.

Lockdowns in Maharashtra and Delhi have compelled a large number of local industrial units to either shut their units or slow down manufacturing as advance orders have been cancelled. After the Covid-19 lockdown last year, no industry manufactures on its own unless advance orders are placed for the same. A majority of advance orders from these two states were cancelled after the lockdown.

Bobby, a transporter, said migrants were certainly returning but they were not in panic. Their return was a cautious move to avoid a situation like last year, when all means of transport were closed. He said a small number of migrants were returning and most of them would return once the harvesting season was over.

Ram Bhawan Goswami, general secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Parishad (UPKP), said the parishad has requested the railways to start special trains to help migrants return to their homes. He said bookings were not available in trains for the next month, while current booking was already closed. As a result, most of the migrants were travelling by private buses, which are charging exorbitantly.

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