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Amaravati, May 16, 2020
Hundreds of migrant workers heading back to Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have been stranded on the Tamil Nadu border as Andhra Pradesh police have sealed the routes to stop them from entering the state on their way to their home states.
Fully aware of the dangers of covering a distance of 1,700-2,000 km by walking under the scorching sun and with no food and water, the migrants said they had no choice.
"We have no money to buy food or pay house rents. We couldn't have stayed in Chennai and since there are no trains or buses available, walking was the only option," said a worker returning to his home in Odisha.
"We are being asked to go back. How can we walk back after covering such a long distance. The authorities should show some sympathy by allowing us to pass through Andhra Pradesh," said another worker.
Adding to the miseries of the workers who had reached the border by walking from Chennai and its suburbs, Andhra Pradesh police refused to allow them to enter the state. According to Google weather, the temperature along the border is hovering around 35 degrees Celsius and the haze makes it feel around 45 degrees.
A migrant worker from Srikakulam district died in Chittoor district. He along with some others was walking toward their home district. The group had stopped enroute at Chandragiri. Mohan Rao reportedly took ill and died on Saturday.
The police even pushed back many workers who had managed to enter the state. Those who had reached as far as Nellore, Ongole and even Vijayawada were transported back to the border.
More than 2,000 hungry and tired workers were stranded on the border point in Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu. They were all walking along Chennai-Kolkatta highway to reach their homes in Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. They also included workers from Srikakulam and Vizinagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh bordering Odisha.
With no money and lack of transportation to return to their homes, hundreds of workers including women and children from Chennai had set off on a perilous journey on foot. During the last few days, several workers succeeded in covering a distance of 500 km to reach Vijayawada and continued their onward journey.
Moved by the plight of the workers, some voluntary organizations started distributing food and water among stranded migrants on the border. They tried to hold talks with the police officials of both the states but no progress could be made.
The Tamil Nadu police also set up check-posts a few kilometers from the border to stop the workers following demand from Andhra Pradesh not to allow the migrants to cross the border.
Authorities in Andhra Pradesh decided to stop the movement of migrant workers from Tamil Nadu as they were finding it difficult to tackle the large influx.
As many workers are taking ill along the highway in Andhra Pradesh, the state government is also under pressure to come to the rescue of the people in distress. Officials said 6,000 migrant workers were stopped at the border checkpoints and sent to relief camps during the last few days.
Principal Secretary, Roads and Buildings, M T Krishna Babu had earlier stated that the government took up supportive measures for the migrant workers travelling to their native places by providing food and water.
Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had also asked officials to provide counselling for the migrants who are walking back to their states and accommodate them in relief camps, followed by transportation through Shramik trains.
Meanwhile, in Vijayawada police used mild force to stop a convoy of migrant workers who were walking towards their home states on Saturday. They were part of a group accommodated in the camp at Vijayawada Club following the intervention of Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney on Friday.
The chief secretary, while returning from the chief minister's camp office at Tadepalli, found a group of workers walking along the road. She stopped her car and spoke to the workers, who informed her that they started walking from Chennai and were on their way to home states of Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand.
The chief secretary had directed Guntur and Krishna district collectors to accommodate the workers in relief camps and make arrangements for their transport through Shramik special trains to their destinations.
However, about 150 workers left Vijayawada Club on Saturday morning and started walking towards the highway. Some of them were on their bicycles. On receiving the information, the police stopped the group and asked them to return to the camp. As the workers insisted that they be allowed to continue their journey to their home states, police resorted to mild lathi-charge and forced them to return to the camp.