COVID-19 lockdown: Vasai tents dismantled, migrants again left coverless

Updated: May 30, 2020, 11:28 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Officials say they have 'no fixed time' for the departure of Shramik Special trains, and as migrants could be there indefinitely, the tents are being removed to reduce costs

Workers dismantle the tents at Suncity ground. Pics/Hanif Patel
Workers dismantle the tents at Suncity ground. Pics/Hanif Patel

After asking the contractor to extend the tent for the increasing number of travelling migrants at Suncity ground in Vasai, the Palghar Collector's office ordered that all tents be removed late on Thursday night citing high costs. On Friday morning, the contractor was seen dismantling the set-up. Collector Kailash Shinde told mid-day, "There is no fixed schedule for Shramik Special trains. Removing the tents will reduce cost."

Contractor Nisar Ahmed said, "At 1 am on Friday, we were told to remove the tent. The cost is R11 per sq ft. We had also installed lights, halogens, mic among other things. I am yet to do the calculation but the bill would be around R50 lakh. I will submit it in a week."

Mustafa, a tailor from Nalasopara, got a message to reach Suncity ground at 6.30 but it did not specify morning or evening;
Mustafa, a tailor from Nalasopara, got a message to reach Suncity ground at 6.30 but it did not specify morning or evening

However, Tehsildar Kiran Survase told mid-day that the tent is being removed to dissuade migrants who have been flocking to the ground without submitting applications for Migrant Special trains. "A large number of migrants have been gathering. If we remove the tent, those who have not received an alert from our office won't wait here," said Survase.

'We offered to build tent'

Abhishek Kushe, secretary of NGO Samadhan Foundation, said that they had offered to build a tent free of cost but the Collector's office refused. "The tent has not been removed to save cost. This reflects mismanagement by the Collector and his office. If they were so concerned about cost, they would have allowed us to erect a tent."

Workers dismantle the tents at Suncity ground
Workers dismantle the tents at Suncity ground

"MLA Hitendra Thakur too had offered to build a tent under which over 2 lakh migrants could have been accommodated while maintaining social distancing. The elderly woman Vidyotma Shukla would not have died. Where will the migrants sit now if a train is scheduled tomorrow? The Collector has messed up all the arrangements," said Kushe, whose NGO has been distributing food to migrants.

Shinde said that they have dispatched migrants in 41 Shramik Special trains. "We have nearly 4,000 migrants who have applied to go to West Bengal. But we are waiting for the approval of concerned authorities to despatch them in the special trains."

migrants who received unclear alerts about their trains
Migrants who received unclear alerts about their trains

Nearly 500 migrants gathered at the ground on Friday morning were chased away by police as there were no scheduled trains. Shinde added that around 50 migrants who wanted to go to Uttar Pradesh were accommodated on a train leaving from Kalyan. "By the time arrangements were made, only 36 still wanted to go as the rest have resumed work. They were sent to Kalyan in a bus."

However, nearly 100 migrants, including pregnant women, kids, elderly and disabled people are still waiting outside the ground.

Migrants confused

Suman Devi with her two-year-old daughterSuman Devi with her two-year-old daughter

Mustafa, 30, a tailor from Nalasopara, was confused on Friday morning as the tents were being pulled down. "At 6.21 pm on Thursday, I received a message saying I have to reach Suncity ground at 6.30. It did not specify whether in the morning or evening, so I rushed to the place. A policeman told me my train is at 6.30 am on Friday. So I returned, packed my things and came to the ground at 3.45 am. Now the tents are being pulled down. Had the authorities informed me clearly on time, I could have been on the train to Jaunpur," Mustafa said.

Like Mustafa, many others received confusing alerts. Rajmani Vishwakarma, 65, gave up his Nalasopara home and came to the ground to board his train to Jaunpur, but could not do so.

Kajal Choudhary, who is seven months pregnant, with her husband Deepa
Kajal Choudhary, who is seven months pregnant, with her husband Deepak

Kajal Choudhary, 27, who is seven months pregnant, wants to go to Darbhanga with her husband, Deepak. "We had applied online for the train nearly 15 days ago. But we have not received any alert yet. We have nothing to eat as my husband is jobless. Last week I had suffered severe stomach pain but no doctor was willing to examine me due to COVID-19. Due to the pregnancy, I need to visit the toilet several times, but there is no facility here," said Choudhary. "In my village, I will at least get some help to deliver my baby safely."

Suman Devi, also wanting to go to Darbhanga, was with her two-year-old daughter. She too has not received a response despite an online application.

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