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    Mumbai lockdown: Scores of migrant workers flee city as fresh curbs kick in

    Mumbai lockdown: Scores of migrant workers flee city as fresh curbs kick in

    Mumbai lockdown: Scores of migrant workers flee city as fresh curbs kick in
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    By Shilpa Ranipeta   IST (Published)

    Mini

    Soon after a lockdown was imposed across India in March 2020, the country saw an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with over ten million migrant workers returning to their hometowns. A year later, a similar story is unfurling in Maharashtra.

    MD Amjad has been standing in line since Monday at the passenger reservation centre at Churchgate in Mumbai, trying to get a train ticket to return home to Bajpatti in Bihar. He works in a store selling handbags at Bombay Central, and is right now out of work as the store shut down amid the new lockdown-like restrictions imposed in Maharashtra.
    “We have been borrowing money to even eat food and cannot sustain like this without income. My boss said he cannot pay us anymore and I only have enough to go back home, but even getting a ticket to go back is proving tough,” Amjad says.
    For Amjad and scores of migrant workers like him, it’s a repeat of March 2020 when they suddenly found themselves out of work and were forced to go back home.
    Soon after a lockdown was imposed across India in March 2020, the country saw an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with over ten million migrant workers returning to their hometowns. A year later, a similar story is unfurling in Maharashtra.
    With around 60,000 covid positive cases being registered in the state daily, the state government imposed a night curfew last week, and fresh curbs effective Tuesday. These new restrictions require all malls, restaurants, stores to be shut until April 30, along with a strict curfew over weekends.
    Many migrant workers who returned to the city between November-January are now staring at uncertainty yet again, forcing them to flee home.
    Standing behind Amjad in the queue outside the reservation centre, Brijesh Kumar Singh, who works at a clothes store on Fashion Street in South Bombay returned to the city only four months ago after he left during the lockdown last year. Now out of work, he had been standing in a queue since five in the morning, hoping to get a ticket to go back home to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
    Minutes after speaking to CNBC-TV18, Brijesh walked out disappointed as he couldn’t get a confirmed ticket. “I’ll come back and stand tomorrow, what else can I do,” he said as he got onto his bicycle to leave.
    Brijesh estimates that at least 10,000 workers in and around Fashion Street alone have lost their jobs because of the latest restrictions.
    Around 20 kilometres away, at the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, there is a constant flow of workers walking into the railway station, bags packed, to leave the city – ticket or no ticket.
    “I went in to buy a ticket, but they said all trains are full so just get on anyway and travel. I have only Rs 1,000 left so I can’t afford to wait longer. I have to go back home – there is no income here now and COVID is spreading fast. Why would I want to get stuck like this,” says Shiv Shankar Saketh who is waiting to board a train back to his village in Madhya Pradesh.
    While many migrant workers are leaving, there are still those who are awaiting further clarity over what the latest restrictions would mean before leaving the city.
    At popular shopping street Colaba Causeway, many store owners and workers are sitting with their stores half-open confused over what the new restrictions are.
    “No one has specifically told us anything. Many have shut shop and returned to their hometowns as soon as night curfew was imposed. We haven’t heard anything yet, so we’re awaiting clarity from BMC,” one of the workers said.
    Another worker Kumar says he only came back in January and is far from making up for the loss of income last year. He is also hesitant to go back home since there isn’t much scope of making a living there either. “There is no work here, there is no work there. We’re also hearing that people aren’t getting tickets – some people have been leaving on bikes and scooties. So, we’re figuring out what to do. This is a very scary situation,” Kumar adds.
    Adding to the worry of a loss of livelihood, the rising number of cases in the city are also giving these workers sleepless nights.
    “Last year when I was heading back to my village, there were about 44 cases in Maharashtra. Today there are over 10,000 in Mumbai alone. Without even an income, what if I fall sick here? It’s not safe for us,” Brijesh says.
    While some of the workers fleeing the city say that they will return when their employer calls them back or when the restrictions are lifted, many others fear a repeat of last year – a 21-day lockdown that dragged on for months.
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