Workers say they now have nowhere to go; police won't let them walk home, and landlords in city won't take them back in
Migrants walk home to UP, Gujarat on Thursday. Pic/Hanif Patel
Migrant workers continue to suffer amid the lockdown. In the latest incident, hundreds of labourers, who had set out for home on foot, were lathi-charged by police at Kashimira on Thursday. Police chased them away towards the city, and now they have nowhere to go.
Over 250 daily-wagers were headed towards Gujarat when they were stopped by the police on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway near Ghodbunder Road junction. As police rained lathis on them, many ran down the bridge and crossed to the other side. Others ran to hide behind vehicles. A mid-day team witnessed the baton charge that took place on the north-bound Versova bridge on the highway. With no food and to transportation back home, the workers had decided to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach home.
'Don't know where to go'
"Dhobi ke kutte wali haalat ho gayi hai humari… na ghar ke rahe na ghaat ke... kidhar jayein samajh nahin aata (We don't know where to go anymore)," said Baliram Choudhary, who left his rented house at Dahisar East on Thursday to walk home to Maharajganj in UP.
Police lathi charge workers near Ghodbunder Road junction on Thursday
"I filled the form five days ago to take a train home. But I have not received any response. I got a test done for COVID-19 and my report came back negative. I lost my patience and decided to walk home," he added.
"We are stuck at this tri-junction for three hours because the police are not allowing us to cross Versova bridge," said Choudhary, accompanied by his two friends Naushad Ahmed and Sahban Hussain. "We are all tailors and lived together in the rented room. Now, even if we decide to go back, the landlord won't take us back suspecting we may have contracted COVID-19," said Ahmed. "We are now jobless as well as homeless. Police are beating us up and not allowing us to go to our hometowns," said Hussain.
Gita was headed to Nalasopara with her two kids, spouse and a relative
Among the hundreds was Gita, who was headed to Nalasopara with her two kids, husband and a relative. They worked at a construction site before the lockdown. She had planned to go to her relative's place at Nalasopara and then arrange a transportation to UP. "Why are cops chasing us away and beating us? What is our fault?" asked her relative Mukesh.
Youth looted by auto driver
A youth Umesh Paswan had boarded an autorickshaw from Bhayandar for Nalasopara, but the driver and his two friends allegedly snatched his phone and Rs 50 cash. "A few minutes after I took the auto, the driver stopped midway and his two friends came, slapped me and snatched my mobile phone and the cash," said Paswan, who did not file a complaint fearing the police would book him for violating the stay-at-home order. He then decided to walk to Nalasopara where his brother stays.
However, the police have refuted the allegations of lathi charge. "I was present there on Versova bridge and they [migrant workers] were not lathi charged," said Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjay Kumar, Thane Rural.
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