The Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday ramped up the evacuation of migrant workers from the state who have been stranded in the Delhi national capital region (Delhi NCR) after the countrywide lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus snapped transport links.
Hundreds of migrant workers continued to pour into Uttar Pradesh from Delhi-UP border in the morning while the UP State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) continued to ferry them to their destinations from different areas of Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar.
The rush of people wanting to go back home meant that social distancing quickly went out of the window at the bus terminals. As crowds packed the buses, the administration later Saturday started thermal screening of the passengers at ISBT Kaushambi.
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The officials of UPSRTC's Ghaziabad region said that till March 27 midnight, they had operated about 96 buses and were arranging more to help the migrant workers reach their destinations.
"Till 11.30am on Saturday we have despatched about 79 buses to various destinations like Lucknow, Etawah, Bareilly, Etah, Aligarh and Gorakhpur besides nearby destinations. We will continue sending buses till all stranded workers are sent to their destinations. We have now resumed buses from ISBT Kaushambi from where all these buses are getting despatched," said AK Singh, regional manager of UPSRTC.
"We despatched 96 buses from Lal Kuan intersection till Friday night and more buses are being arranged from other depots. We had arranged 200 buses for Friday but police had stopped some buses in between due to orders that people should be staying put at their respective places. However on late Friday night we received orders to despatch buses to different destinations," he added.
The movement of migrant workers started on March 24 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a countrywide lockdown.
"We have not stopped workers from entering UP. They were initially stopped, but when they told that they will proceed to their hometowns on foot they were allowed to go. We are also arranging buses from IBST Kaushambi and helping then out to reach their destinations," said Manish Mishra, superintendent of police (city) - Ghaziabad.
Migrant workers like Mohammad Fakhruddin who came to Lal Kuan in Ghaziabad from Tank Road (Karol Bagh) said that he was waiting for buses to arrive.
"I have to go to Badaun, my hometown. I have about 10 people who are with me and I work in a unit which makes denim. However, our work has stopped due to the lockdown. The landlord is asking for rent and I have no money to pay up. So I along with my family decided to move to our hometown. We came to Lal Kuan by a UP roadways bus from ISBT Kaushambi and we are waiting for another bus which will take us to Badaun," he added.
"The police deployed at Kaushambi told us that we can get a UP roadways bus from Kaushambi. So we boarded the bus and reached Lal Kuan," he added.
Ghaziabad district magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey, when asked whether the migrant workers were stopped at Delhi-UP border area, said "There is no stoppage of any migrant worker at borders."
Even the police were seen helping out workers reach their destination.
"It is a time of crisis for these poor people. They have started coming again in groups of 25 to 30 and are continuing their walk towards areas like Hapur, Moradabad etc. On our part we have helped many of them board empty trucks and other commercial vehicles so that at least they can be dropped near to their hometowns," said a police officer.
People like Ram Sundar Maurya, a school headmaster, lent a helping hand to the workers and distributing cooked food to them near Masuri on National Highway 9.
"The workers have started coming again. We are preparing about 300 boxes of food. The buses had come on Friday evening and we helped about 250-300 people to board these buses and reach their destinations," he added.
In areas like Gautam Budh Nagar, the UPSRTC has provided about 200 buses to help out stranded migrant workers at Delhi-UP border. Both Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar share borders with the National Capital.
Police officials said that the buses have already reached different border points in Noida.
"These buses are departing after every two hours. Ferrying these passengers has already begun from 8 am today and will continue for the next 48 hours," said DCP Sankalp Sharma.
Sharma further said that taking cognizance of the reports that these buses are being stopped at various check points in other districts, the Noida police have informed all the administrative and police officials of the district concerned, to allow them on priority level.
"We have also requested them to provide proper food and medical facilities to the passengers boarding on these buses. The buses will drop the passengers at different border points of UP, from where they can take the transportation facilities provided by the state governments of their respective native states," he said.
The DCP also said that all the district magistrates of different destination points have been requested to record the details of the buses reaching their respective districts on Saturday and Sunday.
"They have also been asked to make arrangements for the medical screening of all passengers at their destination points, maintaining their full details, including names, addresses and mobile numbers. It will help us in monitoring and supervision of these passengers," he said.