MUMBAI, India (AP) – Migrant workers in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, are flocking to train stations for their home villages as anti-virus measures are drying up jobs in the affected region.
“What do I do now?” asked Ramzan Ali, who earned up to 500 rupees ($ 7) a day as a laborer but had not worked for two weeks.
On Friday morning, he arrived at Kurla Railway Station and joined a long line to buy a train to board a train to his village in Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh. Ali, 47, hopes to find a job in the village to feed his wife and four children.
The Mahartra state government on Wednesday imposed curfew-like curbs for 15 days to check for the spread of the virus. It closed most of the industries, enterprises, public places, restricted the movement of people, but did not stop the buses, trains, air services.
Emigration began, with panicked day laborers carrying passengers on overcrowded trains, leaving Mumbai on a journey that raises fears of infection in rural areas.
Maharashtra was the center of the nation’s last record growth. On Friday, India recorded its highest level in the last 24 hours – 217,353 new cases, exceeding its total of 14.2 million. The Ministry of Health also reported that 1118 victims were registered in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 174,308.
The rush among migrant workers is not as desperate as it was last year, when Indian Railways shut down all passenger train services due to a sudden, nationwide blockade. This has forced tens of thousands of poor labor migrants to walk or drive trucks and buses.
In addition, northern states such as Punjab, Haryana, New Delhi, and West Rajasthan have not yet seen large-scale migration of labor migrants as it is harvest time. Large farmers hired workers to harvest wheat, other crops, and sow new crops.
Mohamed Aslam, 24, is a tailor in Mumbai, but says he has been unemployed for 18 days. He was queuing up to take a train with relatives and others to the eastern city of Muzaffarfarpur in Bihar province.
“My big family has a farm there. I can earn some money working there,” he said.
Shiva Sanje, 27, is desperate to get on a train because her 70-year-old grandfather is seriously ill in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. “I receive strong calls from my parents and other family members to return to my hometown.”