Coronavirus outbreak: State buses may take migrants home

Updated: Apr 28, 2020, 07:13 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar, Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

MSRTC, district collectors are drawing up a plan to deploy second largest fleet in country for safe transportation of those from other states stranded here

Despite Maharashtra's request, Railways has refused to resume services till orders from the Centre. Pic/Ashish Raje
Despite Maharashtra's request, Railways has refused to resume services till orders from the Centre. Pic/Ashish Raje

With the Railways refusing to comply with Maharashtra's request to help migrants reach their hometowns, the state government is working out its own plans to despatch them. Sources said the government has roped in the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) for help.

An internal plan of just one district — Yavatmal by MSRTC (a copy of which is with mid-day) has revealed that it has lined up 115 buses to 15 state capitals. In an unprecedented gesture, these buses will travel around 1,000 to 1,800 km to drop off over 2,000 migrants and return back to base. Mentioning about the cost element, the letter has sought a sum of R1.35 crore from the district collector to release the buses as per the plan.

Labourers wait in a queue to collect Ifatri food packets at Kidvai Nagar in Wadala on Monday
Labourers wait in a queue to collect Ifatri food packets at Kidvai Nagar in Wadala on Monday

Sources also said that the state government is negotiating with other states to accept the proposal and two states - Odisha and Uttar Pradesh have displayed readiness. However, a few states have claimed that they do not have enough money to arrange transportation for the migrants and also conduct the COVID-19 testing at the same time. Therefore, they want either Maharashtra or the Union government to spend on transportation which can be a contentious point in the entire deal.
However, MSRTC officials said the plan was still under consideration and nothing has been finalised yet.

Moreover, MSRTC and transport department officials said that meetings have been held at Mantralaya about these issues and discussions have been going on with various stakeholders. But as of now, no final decision has been taken yet.

The delay is because it involves stakeholders from other states and there are issues like streamlining the process and to develop a standard operating procedure to allow Maharashtra state buses into their state borders. A comprehensive plan involving all stakeholders needs to be arrived at so that the transport becomes smooth from end to end. This is besides the decision of who will bear the expenses of the journey.

Buses for students in Raj?
The MSRTC has also proposed to run another 91 buses from six bus depots to get about 1,764 medical students stranded in Rajasthan back home. Sources said since it is a long road journey, the buses will have two drivers. Of the 1,764 students, about 23 are from Mumbai, Thane and Palghar districts. However, MSRTC spokesperson denied this saying that no plan has been finalised yet.

17,000
Total no. of buses with MSRTC

115
Total no. of buses lined up from Yavatmal

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