Hundreds of migrant workers were stopped by police at several border districts in Uttar Pradesh this morning while trying to return to their hometowns and villages amid the lockdown.
This comes a day after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered the district officials to stop migrants and their families stranded due to coronavirus lockdown from entering the state on foot, cycles or trucks, arrange food and shelter for them and provide buses for their journey.
This order was preceded by the death of 26 migrants on Saturday who were trying to return to their homes. They were killed when two trucks they were travelling in collided in Auraiya district, which is around 200 km from state capital Lucknow.
Visuals from Jhansi, a district close to Madhya Pradesh, showed policemen asking migrants to get off from trucks and cycles this morning. Some angry labourers were seen raising slogans against the state government and UP police.
“We have been instructed to stop them and we are taking them to a nearby shelter where we will offer food and then arrange for buses for onward journeys,” senior police officer Singh Baghel said.
In western UP’s Saharanpur, which shares a border with Haryana, large groups of migrants from Haryana and Punjab protested earlier this morning in the presence of senior police officials after they were stopped. A few hours later, buses reached the site to take them to their homes.
“We have brought them to a shelter home using the buses. Most of these people are from far off places so we are trying to arrange for trains for them for their onward journeys,” Akhilesh Singh, Saharanpur District Magistrate told reporters.
Former chief minister and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav reacted sharply to the sealing of borders.
“The state that has given the country prime minister, that UP has sealed its borders for the poor. Without roads, how will migrants go to Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, or the northeastern states? This “Hawa-Hawai” Sarkar should rather suggest an air route. Why are the poor not part of Vande Bharat?” the 46-year-old SP chief asked, taking a dig at the government’s scheme to bring back Indians stranded abroad due to travel restrictions over the pandemic.
Lakhs of migrants were stranded in March across the country without jobs after a nationwide lockdown was announced to tackle coronavirus. Many of them died while returning to home as they tried covering hundreds of kilometres on foot.
Since Friday, more than 30 such deaths linked to the movement of migrants have been reported. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called the accident in Auraiya district “tragic”.
Last week, 16 migrants in a group of 20 were killed when they were run over by a cargo train while they were sleeping on tracks, exhausted by a long walk to home.