Experiences during lockdown: how migrants are travelling to their hometown?

SARS-COV-2 infection is grasping all age groups worldwide. It has burden of more than 258344 deaths and 3.66 million diagnosed cases across all the globe. To curb the chain of transmission borders of all the regions are closed strictly. India is tackling this situation with different strategies. While we observe this social distancing and complete closure, we cannot forget a section of our society who are daily wagers. In this crisis they are struck the most. It’s worsening their livelihood. After more than a month of lockdown, there are relaxations on certain activities.

The telephone numbers provided were unanswered and busy continuously. The person with the difficulty had to undergo big turmoil. There are few state public transports services which provide personal safety kit. They have listed the citizens being transferred without any stoppage till the destination. Some news flashed migrant laborers impatiently began their journey back home walking or through crowded containers/cement mixer.

CASE 1: Travel Interstate:

Ms Artcia, Single 36yrs old female, stranded in neighboring state. She stayed inside the hotel for more than a month. She had travelled from her home-state for field work monitoring. When the release of lockdown happened, she tried to find out the process for mobility. It was majorly through news media and learning from people’s experience. Finally, after three days of information searching, she decided to seek help from the collector’s office. She requested the hotel owner for driving her to office. There she found the place had huge crowd. She came to know from people after waiting for an hour procedure can be initiated through online application only. Then she went to a department who were assisting in filling the application. Due to slow server her application got uploaded after four hours of patience. Then she asked the helper for contact details to get informed about the next steps. She returned to place of accommodation. On the next day she received call from the person helping her around in the office “If you give something to the assistant of the officer, your work will be done faster”. She became annoyed. She had to mention her difficulty and misery of loneliness. She had to wait for their response because it was weekend when they didn’t provide any updates. On Monday she tried calling the contact person regarding the progress. He told “We need to time to work but no need for anything”. Later, on the same day evening she received epass. She had arranged for vehicle and driver. Finally, she began her journey back home. On the way back roads had traffic similar to days prior to lockdown. She observed laborers either walking on streets or waiting for vehicles. Some local authorities had arranged one to another taluka free transportation. On the toll check point, screening tests for SARS COV were conducted on the driver but to avoid long waiting time for the many vehicles, the passengers were skipped from it. After, halting at two toll points and one fruits vendor Artcia reached her hometown safely.

CASE-2: Inter-district Travel:

A 45yrs man old man narrated that his 18 yrs old daughter was student in district 180kms away. She was alone in hostel and stuck due for 40 plus days. He wanted to permission to cross district borders and bring her back home. There was confusion about his locality and heading police station. He was send back to another police station without minor details about the travel. The police handed over offline application. This application requires personal details and maximum group of 11 can travel using one form. The details are kept in the register. There was misunderstanding within the staff whether inter-district transport is allowed. The travel form through an online portal has mandate for uploading fitness certificate and driver details in some states otherwise you can travel easily.

CASE- 3 Hospital response:

Already hospitals have lot of workload due to epidemic and the mandate of fitness certificate has doubled it. Few hospitals made compulsory for the note from nearest police station for the screening certificate for SARS COV. The private sector charged consultation charges and gave the certificate with inspection. There was huge crowd at government hospitals as well as in the open private hospitals. The hospital nurse said “Tya sathich lok ahet aj jastt (most of the people are for that only)”. After uploading the fitness certificates of the next hurdle was mode of transport. The vehicle details are must to be entered for submission of the offline application. If private TAXI/CAB is opted its compulsory to give vehicle details such as model type, capacity of seats, vehicle number and driver details.

Thus, there is complete chaos around the migrant travel. Even within a same state there are variations in the regulations for the interstate or inter-district travel during lockdown. Its tedious process to submit the application. The procedure is mentally and physically tiring with lot of uncertainty hanging with it. There might be possibility to get the infection during multiple visits to various institutes. It is recommended to have separate functioning enquiry helpline accountable with updated process regularly. The contact persons must be properly trained. Also, the regulations should be universal and prepared taking into considered health safety strategy. As the daily changes and revisions occur in the regulations for mobility service provider need to be updated with it.  Especially, in the completely unknown situation of this infectious disease we need to cautious about all the sectors of the society. The migration to place of opportunity is choice made after multiple factors. It is necessary to reduce any trouble and avoid torture to people who traveled for different reasons from their home town. I want safety for whole population irrespective of their age, sex, class, caste, creed, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and permanent residency. Lastly, these are only representative information and cannot be generalized. Although, the situation is rarely different than its commonly experienced.

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