With non-essential businesses shut till April 30 as part of the new Covid-19 restrictions in Maharashtra, migrant workers looking to return to their home states are queueing up at train reservation counters at Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT).
“There have been many queries today from people who want to catch a train to UP and Bihar. I told them to get reserved tickets,” a railway employee at LTT said.
Waiting in a queue at LTT on Tuesday afternoon, Niyaz Ahmed, a 30-year-old from Lucknow, said: “I sold lemon juice on Mohamed Ali road. I have been in Mumbai for 15 years. I have a wife and one child back home. I am homeless and lived on the street. Now I have no source of income. Back home I will have no job but at least I will get food twice a day. Here I will die hungry. They are saying there is no ticket. I will go without a ticket and pay the fine if the ticket checker catches me.”
Like Ahmed, Suraj Yadav, 22, and Krishna Kumar Namdev, 33, both residents of Satna in Madhya Pradesh, rushed to the reservation counter to book tickets. With no tickets available, they decided to sleep on the platform.
Yadav said: “We worked in a small hotel in Nerul. The owner said he will not pay us but will provide for our food. What can we do, sir? We cannot wait, we have to leave. I do not know if we will get work back in the village but will have to do something like farming.”
At CSMT on Tuesday night, a group of caterers from Bihar looked disappointed and tensed as the ticket counter was shut. They will have to spend the night at the station till the counter opens the next day.
One of them, Rajesh Kumar Das, 36, said, “We work in hotels and in catering service at CSMT. Our boss asked 60 of us to return home. Now what do we do? We cannot afford to stay here. I will try to go in the general compartment.”
Shivaji Sutar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Central Railway, told The Indian Express, “In view of Covid-19, we have permitted only passengers with confirmed tickets to travel. Announcement of additional trains, if any, at certain places is only part of the ongoing gradual restoration of train services. We appeal to everyone to avoid speculation over the reasons and not resort to panic booking.”
A central railway official, requesting anonymity, said that trains to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were fully booked for the next few days.
The partial lockdown also hit local traders at the Dadar flower market. Mohan Janbhare, 44, who works at a flower bouquet stall, said, “There is no business at all today. Yesterday, at least 100 odd people came to our shop. We are getting pay cuts. I used to earn 300 a day, now I am earning 200 a day. Now cops are saying shut it down completely.”
Several roadside vendors at the Dadar flower market were treated leniently by the police as they were selling a perishable product. The police had initially shut them down in the morning, but by evening they again took to the streets. However, they were again forced to shut by the police. Some hawkers and road side traders were also seen on the road outside CSMT on Tuesday evening. But, within an hour, they too were forced to empty the roads.