Migrants from Maharashtra headed towards Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have become a law and order and coronavirus issue for the Madhya Pradesh government.
Thousands of migrant workers went on a rampage after traffic was jammed on the National Highway 3 on Thursday. They pelted stones at the police after waiting for nine hours for food.
Migrant workers and crisis amid lockdown
Violence erupted in Sendhwa on Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra border as the promised arrangement for food and transportation for them did not materialise.
Cellphone videos from the spot showed hundreds of people, screaming and running on the shoulder beside the highway.
"People here are travelling with month-old babies. The Maharashtra government sent us here, but our own government is holding us up. We have been here since last night, hungry and thirsty," said Sunit Mishra, who works in Pune. The hapless people are stranded in a jungle with no security. "No one cares about us," said Mishra who wants to go to Satna.
District Collector Amit Tomar said, "The stone-pelting took place as some migrants felt after the buses left, there would not be any more vehicles for those left behind, but we reassured them and calmed them down."
The migrants were sent to transit points in different districts in 135 buses from the border, he said.
"The administration is providing facilities like food, water, shelter to labourers who are coming in their own vehicles or through other conveyances and providing facility of buses to others who are entering Madhya Pradesh walking from Maharashtra's border," said Tomar.
Series of violent outbreaks
The restive migrants had resorted to violence last week too. On May 3 over a thousand workers staged a protest in Barwani after the district was sealed. More than 300 people were booked for last week's violence. The cases were not pursued though.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has appealed to the labourers to have patience, saying they will be transported free of cost by buses after medical checkups and a meal.
The Madhya Pradesh government, he said, will ensure that every labourer reaches home. ItA is not just about transporting the labourers to their destinations. It is also about ensuring that the other states allow them to cross into home states. Both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar take a long time to let the people in. say the state government officials.
Sendhwa is a crucial stop for the migrant labourers from Maharashtra taking the road to go to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Every day, thousands of migrants pour into town, from where they take buses and trucks for the onward journey.
The maximum pressure is at Bijasan Ghat on the border of Sendhwa, where 5,000 to 6,000 labourers reach every day.