Thousands of migrant labourers, walking back to their villages from their places of work following the 21-day lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic, have not been welcomed back, PTI reported on Sunday. Instead, reports emerged of villagers handing them over to the police, who put them into quarantine camps.
The situation is similar with workers returning from Nepal and Bhutan. Some villages in Bihar have refused entry to people, even from neighbouring areas.
“Four of my co-villagers working in Nepal returned home two days ago,” a villager told PTI over phone from Alawalpur village near Patna. “But villagers informed the police about them following which they swooped into the village with ambulances and handed them over to the medical team.”
The villager said in Fatehpur six people returned home from Bhutan on Saturday after undertaking part of their journey on foot in Bihar and West Bengal. However, the villagers handed them over to the police.
Luv Singh, a resident of Jamalpur village, said nine people returning to the village near Alawalpur, from Mumbai, were handed over to the police and medical authorities, in spite of the fact that medical authorities in Mumbai had earlier examined them.
Inspector Kumar, a police officer who has jurisdiction over these villages, confirmed the stories. “Yes, it’s true. Initially over 15 people coming from outside the state were reported to us by villagers and we handed them over to medical teams,” he said. Later, the medical teams began to pick up the villagers on their own after getting information about returning migrant labourers.
Kumar said that at least 40 people, belonging to various villages like Alwalpur, Fatehpur, Kamarjee, Kandap and Masadhi in the jurisdiction of the Gaurichack police station were reported to the police. He said Piariya village near Alawalpur had gone into a lockdown, refusing entry to outsiders. “Good for us,” Kumar said.
At least 1,071 people have been infected by the coronavirus in India, and 29 have died, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. After the lockdown began on March 25, thousands of migrant workers began long journeys back home on foot. However, on Sunday, the Centre issued an order prohibiting the movement of people across cities or states, fearing that mass movement of migrants may serve to spread the pandemic.