Reverse migration: exodus of workers causes chaos, tense states
The magnitude of reverse migration that was on a leash until a few days ago began to unravel on Saturday when the first Shramik Special trains carrying a few thousand lucky migrant workers reached their destinations, while millions of others, 40 lakh in Gujarat and Maharashtra alone: rushed to register for evacuation, attempted to sneak alone or en masse at the borders.
In Gujarat, despair sparked violence and chaos along interstate borders after police prevented thousands of migrant workers from leaving. Stranded without food and cash, some resorted to stone throwing at checkpoints in Dahod, on the MP border, and Shamlaji on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border in Aravalli district.
Violence was also reported outside Vadodara, where nearly 2,000 people defied orders to return. One migrant worker suffered a head injury in a clash with police, while two others were injured when police attacked a mob near Vadodara.
At least four buses carrying nearly 200 UP migrants were forced to return to Surat from Dahod despite travelers claiming to have valid transit passes. Collector Dahod, however, said no such permission had been granted.
Of the 20 lakh migrants waiting to leave Gujarat, the majority are from UP (5.5 lakh), (3.8 lakh), Odisha (3.5 lakh) and MP (3 lakh). The total also includes 11,000 people from Nepal, according to data collected from reports sent in by collectors from all 33 districts.
Maharashtra also witnessed a rush to register for interstate and intrastate transit passes a day after the first train of migrants left the state and police stations in cities were authorized to accept travel requests. The 94 police stations in Mumbai only received 15,000 requests. The state disaster control room received 7,000 requests by email. However, many were not happy with the cumbersome application process and the fact that they would have to pay the bill to go home despite the loss of livelihood during closing.
When word spread that a train could leave 1,200 passengers from the outskirts of Thane to Gorakhpur from UP late on Saturday, a crowd of 5,000 people gathered at the station at night. Police and district officials had to convince them to leave, police sources said.
Maharashtra has an estimated migratory population of 15-20 lakh, of which around five lakh are in relief camps.
The Ratanpur checkpoint on the Rajasthan-Gujarat border witnessed queues of migrant workers waiting for their turn to register and be screened before the bus ride home.
The interstate border was opened on April 26 for those coming from Gujarat, Maharashtra, and MP with valid transit passes.