The coronavirus outbreak has not
only created a health emergency in Maharashtra, but it has also rendered thousands of daily wagers and migrant labourers jobless, triggering a mass exodus that cost some of them their lives.
Despite the Maharashtra government's measures to quell the exodus, by setting up relief camps and shelter homes, the loss of income has pushed thousands of migrant labourers to leave cities with women and children in tow.
Labourers, who mostly worked at the construction sites in urban area including Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, were seen escaping to their villages within Maharashtra and some as far as Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
From walking hundreds of kilometres along railway tracks or highways to latching on to trucks or tempos that came their way, migrant workers continue risk their lives to reach their villages.
Those who are caught escaping are taken to government-run relief camps, where they are provided with basic essentials to survive the lockdown.
At least 250 people, including women and children, are housed at one such camp in Navi Mumbai's Vashi area, since last week.
For 35-year-old Ramu Rathod, escaping to his village in Yadgiri, Karnataka was the only option, as he was unble to feed his children a proper meal after he lost his job at a construction site following the lockdown.
Another resident of the Vashi camp, Shankar Chavan said, "I will start farming in my village, as the monsoon season will also start in the next couple of months."
"I cannot see my children go hungry," said the 30- year-old father of two.
The men were caught by the Navi Mumbai police with 70 other labourers, who were travelling in a tempo to Karnataka.
"I have to send money to my elderly parents back home and with no work how can I do that?," said 30-year-old Nur Ul Kamar.
After being caught travelling to his village in Basti district of Uttar Pradesh, Kamar was brought to a government- run relief camp.
"They are providing us good food and everything is taken care of," he said, adding that he will head back home once the train services start.
The government, which is doing its best to contain the spread of the pandemic, has also been addressing the issue of migrant workers on war footing and its efforts may have softened the blow a little.
"As there is a threat of coronavirus outside, we are keeping them safe at the camp," R B Borhade, circle officer of the state government told PTI.
Labourers at the camp were provided food and other essentials, including toiletteries and bedding, he said, adding that everyone was screened for infection.
The Maharashtra government has set up 262 relief camps, which are currently housing 70,399 migrant labours and homeless persons.
Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Saturday also took a stock of the situation by video-conferencing with divisional commissioners.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)