Coronavirus outbreak: Construction workers make way to villages on foot

Updated: Mar 28, 2020, 07:10 IST | Samiullah Khan | Mumbai

Rendered homeless due to the lockdown over Coronavirus outbreak, they neither have money, nor have they received any help to feed their families.

Migrant labourers from Rajasthan, MP, UP and Bihar, on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway
Migrant labourers from Rajasthan, MP, UP and Bihar, on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway

"With the lockdown in place there is no job, no shelter and no food... there is no point in staying here and starving to death," a migrant labourer told a Crime Branch officer, who spotted hundreds of daily wagers heading home on foot to Rajasthan, UP, MP and Bihar, on Thursday evening. "One of the workers told me they had no income after the lockdown since there are no jobs, and their children were starving for days with no help from anyone, so they decided to leave the city," the officer said.

Assistant Police Inspector (API) Bhimsen Gaikwad of the Boisar Crime Branch told mid-day that the migrant labourers said they decided to walk hundreds of kilometres after losing hope of any help during their struggle to keep themselves and their families fed.

Labourers with luggage leave for their native villagesLabourers with luggage leave for their native villages

As many as 500 people, including men and women, with luggage on their heads and children on their shoulders, were headed to their homes in states as far as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on Thursday evening, said Gaikwad. The officer spotted them on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway and broke down after hearing ordeal of some of the daily wage labourers.

migrant labourers on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway
migrant labourers on Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway

Most of these labourers, who were spotted on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway near Nalsopara East, worked in areas like Vasai, Nalasopara and Naigaon, on construction sites and lived in makeshift huts nearby, he said. "These people are labourers and worked at different construction sites and companies in Vasai, Nalasopara and Naigaon areas. Due to the lockdown over the pandemic, the work has come to standstill," Gaikwad told mid-day.

Prakash, a migrant labourer from Rajasthan
Prakash, a migrant labourer from Rajasthan

"One of the workers told me that they have been facing financial crisis since the lockdown because there are no jobs, and as their children were starving for days with no help from anyone, they decided they have no option but to leave the city," Gaikwad said.

Gaikwad spoke to Prakash, who worked at a construction site in Vasai, and was heading to his native village in Rajasthan along with wife and two sons. Prakash told me that he decided to leave because construction work has stopped due to the lockdown over the Coronavirus outbreak and he has no money to feed his family anymore.

Several others the officer spoke to were facing the same issue. "Prakash told me, 'It is better to return to our village than stay hungry and die'," said Gaikwad.

Prakash's sons


Prakash and others said they would have stayed here had anyone provided them help in the form of food and water, he added. The labourers are forced to walk home as all modes of public transport has been suspended during the lockdown.

Nearly 2,000 stuck at Gujarat border

On Friday morning, a group of seven to eight people, who worked at a real estate firm in Mahim, left their single-room accommodation to go live with their relatives in Rajasthan. "My wife, daughter and other relatives live in Udaipur," Kantial Joshi, 60, told mid-day, on reaching Virar on foot. Joshi said they left the city after it became difficult to survive without an earning. Joshi worked at the real estate firm and drove a cab as well. However, with the restrictions in place, his earnings have stopped. Close to 2,000 people, mostly migrant labourers, are trapped on Maharashtra-Gujarat border as the Gujarat police are not allowing them to enter the state, alleged some of them. A businessman from Pune, who was headed to Rajasthan for his mother's funeral with a written permission of Pune police, told mid-day, the Gujarat police turned him away and said, "villagers will do the funeral, you go back to Pune".

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