Migrant workers are flocking to the railway stations in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, to return to their home villages now that the Karnavirus-control system has dried up in the hard-hit areas.
“What do I do now?” Ramzan asked Ali if he could earn 500 rupees a day as a worker, but he had been working outside for two weeks.
On Friday morning, he reached the Kurla railway station and joined a long line to buy a train ticket for his village Balrampur in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Ali, 47, hopes to find some work in the village to feed his wife and four children.
Similar scenes began in New Delhi, where some migrant workers feared they might be trapped if the lockout was announced.
Home in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday imposed a 15-day lockdown-national ban on the spread of the virus. It shut down most industries, businesses and public places and restricted the movement of people, but did not shut down bus, train and air services.
Panic on the crowded trains leaving Mumbai as workers unloaded their backpacks and panicked ex migration is raising fears of the virus spreading to rural areas.
Maharashtra has been at the center of the country’s recent record growth in new infections. As many as 217,353 new cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours since the carnivirus epidemic in India crossed 14.2 million on Friday. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also reported 1,165 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,174,308.
Crowds among migrant workers were not as frustrated as last year, when Indian Railways suspended all passenger train services during a severe and sudden nationwide lockdown. As these millions of poor workers tried to return home, they were forced to move or drive trucks and buses in the scorching heat.
Also, northern states like New Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and western Rajasthan have yet to see a large influx of migrant workers due to the harvest season. Large farms employ workers ready to collect wheat and other crops and sow new crops.
Twenty-four-year-old Mohammad Aslam is a tailor in Mumbai but he says he has been sitting idle for 18 days. He was on his way to board a train with relatives and others in the town of Muzaffarpur in eastern Bihar state.
“My extended family has a farm and I can earn some money by working there,” he said.
Shiva Sanjeev, 2 years old, was desperate to get on a train because his 70-year-old grandfather was seriously ill in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
“I am making the erroneous call to my parents and other family members to return to my city,” he said.
After announcing a weekend stay-and-home order in New Delhi on Thursday, some migrant workers there said they feared the lockdown was not too far away. A huge crowd of migrant workers was waiting outside the capital’s Anand Bihar railway station on Friday, as authorities allowed only those with guaranteed tickets to enter the platform.
Sonu Sharma, a carpenter who works on construction sites, waited by train for repairs to his hometown of Begu in eastern Bihar.
“My work is going to be closed from Saturday. I don’t want to do anything to stop the lockdown, “Sharma said.
He was in the Indian capital in March 2020 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown. For three months, she did not move out of her home, living her thrifty life.
“But this time I have no savings left,” he said. “If there’s a lockdown, I’ll have nothing.”
Azad, a construction worker using only one name, said that after last year’s lockdown announcement, he could not find transport to return to his village in Bihar state.
“It took me five days to walk home. It was horrible, ”Azad said.“ It was safer to go home before the situation got worse.