Letting migrants walk home on humanitarian ground: Minister

Mumbai: With thousands of migrant workers desperate to return home even by marching on foot, the Maharashtra government has decided not to be harsh with them and let them go on humanitarian ground despite violation of lockdown norms, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has said.

Talking to PTI, Deshmukh said had the train services commenced earlier, as the state government was demanding, the sufferings of labourers would have been much less.

“It is true that migrant labourers who are walking back to their home towns hundreds of kilometres away are in a way violating lockdown norms, but we are letting them go on humanitarian ground, Deshmukh said.

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Last month, hundreds of migrant labourers gathered near Bandra station here, demanding that transportation arrangements be made for them to go back to their native places. Police then baton-charged the workers to disperse them.

Deshmukh said the state government earlier tried to be strict, but extension of the lockdown “pushed the migrant labourers to the edge”.

“They are so desperate to go home that they are ready to even face the wrath of law enforcement agencies. Hence, we decided not to be harsh with them. It is not alone my ministry but the government as a whole is trying to help them, the minister said.

“Had the train services commenced earlier, as the Uddhav Thackeray government has been demanding, the sufferings of labourers would have been much less,” he said.

Deshmukh said there was some communication gap (between the state government and labourers) which could have been corrected earlier.

“We never thought the lockdown would get extended for such a long time. We tried to speak to migrant labourers.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also made several appeals, but the migrant workers decided to return home, he said.

Deshmukh said the government tried to convince migrant labourers not to leave the state by telling them that some industries have resumed and there would be more relaxations in days to come.

“During my visit to temporary shelter homes, a group of workers told me they might come back after Diwali, but now they want to go home, the minister said.

They are taking a huge risk by setting off on foot to their native places as they do not have money and resources to complete the journey, he noted.

The minister also said the Maharashtra government has borne the cost of transporting 10,000 workers belonging Madhya Pradesh who were in Telangana.

“The Telangana government dropped them at the Maharashtra border. Our government provided them shelter and food and later dropped them at the Madhya Pradesh border. The Maharashtra government did not charge anything for it, he said.

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