BARELY six months after they returned, thousands of migrants working in Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) are now re-packing their bags to go back home as Maharashtra is in the grip of a tsunami-like COVID ‘second-wave’. With night curfews, stringent daytime restrictions and a weekend lockdown imposed across the State, migrants from different parts of India are in a state of semi-panic, as daily new infections in the State soar in half-lakh-plus range.
A majority of them, especially the skilled and semi-skilled workers, were brought back from their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha with great difficulties by their employers after the phase-wise Unlockdown that started in August 2020. They were employed in the lakhs of small or medium industries, small factories, workshops, warehouses, hotels, restaurants, delivery chains, big and small offices or commercial establishments, and even large retail outlets or shopping centres and in farmlands in rural areas. Barely had they settled down in the past six months or so, the spectre of yet another ‘mega-migration’ stares at the migrant workers in the State, though there are no hysterical reactions so far.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Aam Aadmi Party and others have slammed the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government for the semi-lockdown scenario which is playing havoc with people’s livelihood. “Last year, the migrants experienced first-hand the tortures of fleeing to their small towns or villages surmounting great hurdles. This time, they are mentally better prepared and are planning to clear out before the situation worsens,” Dharavi Leather Goods Manufacturing Association Working President Rajesh Sonawane told IANS. Sonawane said that migrant crowds are swelling at various railway stations in the MMR with many resorting to hiring touts to get them confirmed tickets to board the outbound trains.