IN THE wake of the coronavirus outbreak and the 21-day nationwide lockdown, thousands of migrant workers from Rajasthan working in different parts of Gujarat have started walking back to their native places in the absence of any transport facility. Gujarat Police have been trying to convince them to abide by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to avoid travelling. A Congress leader from Ahmedabad has asked the party- led Government in Rajasthan to arrange some transportation after these workers reach the Gujarat-Rajasthan border near Shamlaji town of Arvalli district, also known as the Ratanpur border. Radheshyam Patel, a native of Rajasthan’s Dungarpur district and working in Ahmedabad, said there is no point in staying here without any income.
“Most of us work here at tea stalls or food joints. Since everything is shut, our employers have asked us to come back only after things get normal, as they don’t have money to pay us. Since buses and other modes of transport are not available, we have decided to walk to reach home,” he said. Patel was part of a 50-member group that started its journey on foot on Tuesday night from the city’s Naranpura area to reach the Ratanpur border, around 150 km from here. “I know there is the threat of virus, but we are helpless. How would we survive without any income for three weeks? We don’t have money to pay to our landlord. It’s better we move back to our native places,” said Mangi Lal, who belongs to Rajasthan’s Udaipur district. He was part of a group of 100 people who left from Gujarat’s Mehsana district to return to their homes. Inspector General, Gandhinagar Range, Mayanksinh Chavda said police is providing food packets and water to the migrant workers on humanitarian grounds.
“We are trying our best to discourage these migrant workers from moving to Rajasthan. This will defeat the purpose of lockdown,” he said. “Since they are desperate to reach their homes, we are providing them food and water during their journey. We are also taking action against the factory owners who have not done enough to keep these workers here,” Chavda said. Gujarat Migrant Workers’ Congress president Ashok Punjabi claimed that over 50,000 workers left on foot from Ahmedabad alone to reach their homes in Rajasthan. “I spoke to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot yesterday about this issue. I urged him to arrange bus service for migrants once they reach the Ratanpur border,” he said. Many migrant labourers started their journey on foot from as far as Surat, as they have been asked by their employers and landlords to leave, said Punjabi.