An exodus of migrants from Maharashtra has begun following the announcement of curfew by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday night. Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) was teeming with migrant workers after the announcement.
While many had anticipated a lockdown and managed to get confirmed tickets to their respective hometowns, several were seen trying to enter the station by buying general compartment tickets.
Though every day, Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) are increasing the number of trains to North Indian states, over 2,000 people continue to be on the waiting list till Tuesday night.
The exodus of migrants from Mumbai had begun in earnest on Monday, a day before Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced a statewide curfew for 15 days till May 1.
Several hundred migrants, having reserved train tickets, were seen waiting at CSMT for long-distance trains late Tuesday. Most of them were trying to return home fearing a repeat of last year’s experience.
“Ten trains are leaving for North Indian states on Wednesday. The waiting list is of around 1,000 to 1,500 people for these trains. We are running additional trains based on the waiting lists,” said Shivaji Sutar, chief PRO of CR.
Long wait for trains
While many migrants are also leaving the state by road, most are forced to wait for reserved train tickets worth Rs 1,500, as a bus ride costing Rs 5,000 will burn a hole in their pockets.
Harsh Kotak, general secretary of Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatna, said: “Migrants are leaving but on a much smaller scale than last year. In the last 10 days, 100-odd buses have left for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
During last year’s lockdown, 1,000-odd buses had gone to these states.”
“Another reason could be that buses were exempted from taxes last year, so the cost of tickets for UP and Bihar was around Rs 3,000. Now, the tickets cost around Rs 5,000. Also, panchayat elections are due in these states,” added Kotak, who is also a member of BOCI (Bus & Car Operators Confederation of India).
Full migration imminent
Earlier in the day, before the curfew was announced, Bal Malkit Singh, chairman of the core committee, All India Motor Transport Congress, had said: “We have 90 lakh truckers in our association, including 14 lakh in Maharashtra.
Almost all drivers, helpers and loading-unloading staff among others are migrant workers. Due to the surge in Covid-19 cases, migration has begun but not at a scale witnessed last year. But if there is a total lockdown, then migration will rise exponentially.”
Meanwhile, Pradeep Shetty, senior vice-president of Hotel & Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), in a letter to the CM, had requested a slew of measures, including exemption of taxes and special vaccination drive, to help the sector’s sinking economy.
“About 20 per cent of the staff has moved out and migrated due to the new restrictions while rest are waiting for govt’s decision on full lockdown. Once lockdown is announced, full migration out of the city and state is imminent,” he had written before the 15-day curfew was imposed.