Maharashtra students migrant workers

Maharashtra breathes sigh of relief as students, migrant workers return home

May 2, 2020

1800 students from Kota, Rajasthan are on their way back home in Maharashtra after being stranded for over 37 days since the nationwide lockdown was announced to stop the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. The Maharashtra government had sent 76 Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses to fetch the students on Wednesday.

The students, belonging to various cities in Maharashtra were part of Kota’s coaching institutes that provide student accommodations to students during rigorous preparations for various medical and engineering competitive exams like Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) JEE, JEE and NEET after grade XII. All students returning to the state will be checked for COVID-19 symptoms and asymptomatic students too will undergo 14 days of quarantine. 

The Central government on Wednesday allowed state governments to facilitate inter-state travel for stranded migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims and students with a slew of conditions amid the lockdown. On International Labour Day (May 1) the Railway Ministry also begun operations of special passenger trains called ‘Shramik Trains’ to ferry stranded persons back home.

The move has come as relief to the Maharashtra government that has reported a high number of  COVID-19 positive cases – 9915 cases and 432 deaths (May 1) even as it grapples with the issue of migrant population stranded in many of the state’s COVID-19 hotspots across cities like Pune and Mumbai. Earlier on April 14, despite the lockdown 2000 migrant workers who gathered at Mumbai’s Bandra railway station hoping to return home getting onto passenger trains had to be lathi-charged before they dispersed.

In Mumbai, more than half of the city’s current 983 containment zones are in congested slums areas like Dharavi. One of Asia’s biggest urban slums, Dharavi is also a COVID-19 hotspot with 330 reported cases and 18 deaths as on April 28. Dharavi also houses 20,000 informal small-scale units engaged in manufacturing of leather, textile, pottery, garment, glass, zari and recycling units that employ 2.5 lakh daily wage earning migrant workers. Coming from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh workers were unable to secure any transport after the March 24 lockdown was enforced and have been dependent on Dharavi’s community leaders and local businessmen to feed them.

 “We have been distributing cooked meals to around 2000 migrant workers twice a day since the lockdown. These migrant workers accounted for 70 percent of the food we distributed each day and once the workers move back to their hometowns, it will be a big relief to all the government agencies as well as independent agencies working in the area,” says Amir Khan, a local community leader associated with the Mirza Trust run by local businessman.

Dipta Joshi

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