The Maharashtra Police on Thursday found over 300 migrant workers holed up inside two container trucks meant for carrying essential commodities from Telangana to Rajasthan, PTI reported.

The nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which entered its third day on Friday, has left several thousand workers in the informal sector without jobs and any means of sustenance. Reports of workers walking back to their villages have also emerged from many parts of the country in the absence of public transport that has been shut due to the lockdown.

A team of police and revenue department officials stopped the trucks in the border district of Yavatmal for routine inspection and found several hundred men crammed inside. Yavatmal Superintendent of Police M Rajkumar said the drivers claimed to be transporting essential goods to Rajasthan, reported The Indian Express. “The men are primarily construction workers returning from Hyderabad to different parts of Rajasthan,” Rajkumar said, adding that the police were investigating how they had managed to get that far from Hyderabad without being intercepted.

Officials said action will be taken against the driver but they are unsure of how to deal with the workers. “They need to go home for survival,” one of the official told PTI. “We will take some decision soon.”

Meanwhile, another incident of around 300 labourers travelling illegally in a railway rake was reported by the Uttar Pradesh authorities. The rake was being brought back from Thiruvananthapuram to Gorakhpur and most of the men got off at Jhansi. The matter was highlighted at a video conference chaired by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday.

Later in the day, railway authorities confirmed that a Government Railway Police inspector had taken bribe from around 45 migrants to ferry them to their hometowns amid the lockdown, PTI reported. The authorities scanned the CCTV footage of the New Delhi railway station that showed the inspector smuggling migrants aboard an empty rake of the Magadh Express on Thursday.

“The CCTV footage showed that he [the railway inspector] took money from the contractor to facilitate the workers to board the train, but was spotted by RPF personnel, who immediately deboarded them,” Railway Protection Force Director General Arun Kumar said. “The District Commissioner of Police, Railways and the Delhi Police have been informed and necessary action will be taken by them.”

The chief ministers of West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar have also started an initiative to ensure the safety of the migrant workers, NDTV reported. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to the chief ministers of 18 states, asking them to look after the migrant labourers. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also sent a similar letter, adding that his government has made arrangements to reach out to people from other states who need help during the lockdown. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a Rs 100-crore plan to help migrants.

The lockdown ordered by Modi has been acknowledged by both experts and Opposition leaders as a necessary move to control the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. However, the fallout is affecting the economically weaker sections of the society and has left them without jobs and little money to survive during this period.

The toll in the coronavirus pandemic rose to 17 in India on Friday and the number of patients increased to 724, the Union Health Ministry said. This includes those who have recovered and 640 active cases. Two deaths were also reported from Bhilwara city in Rajasthan but the health ministry is yet to confirm.

Follow live updates of the coronavirus pandemic here.

Also read:

  1. Coronavirus lockdown: 30 steps government should take to ease the suffering of the poorest Indians
  2. Coronavirus: India can’t fight Covid-19 if millions don’t know anything about it