With the sudden spurt in Covid cases, high fatalities and lockdown fears lurking on their minds, migrant workers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Chattisgarh have started returning home.
One such group of workers spotted at Shimla’s ISBT taking a bus to Delhi, admitted that they were worried about the Covid spike which might lead to a lockdown.
“For days, incessant rain and snowfall have forced them to sit idle. The local administrations in the districts viz Solan, Shimla, Hamirpur, Una and Kangra have ordered weekend closures. If the cases increase, there will be a lockdown. You never know, it might continue for weeks and months,” said Bahu Kunwar, who hails from Bihar.
Sri Krishna, another migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh, said their families are asking them to come back home or otherwise they will get stranded if a lockdown is imposed.
“Moreover, there is hardly any work. Construction activities have slowed down and ancillary jobs like carpentry, masonry, building, painting and other jobs have dried up.” he said.
The farmers in Sirmaur, Kangra and Una districts have also reported migration of workers though a lot of workforce was required for the wheat harvest.
It’s not that they were worried about infection spread but more frightened about possibilities of a lockdown.
Sanjay Khurana, president, Baddi-Brotiwala-Nalagarh Industrial Association, also has expressed fears about an impending migration of industrial labour.
“A lot of labourers took leave immediately on hearing about the second wave using pretexts of harvest season or family weddings. They haven't returned. A few are citing Covid as reason, if they are are stranded,” he admitted, adding that those still there are being asked not to panic.
Last week, many workers also tested positive on the industrial premises. This has been a worrying factor too.
Khuarana, however, shared his own concerns about the situation turning worse in Delhi, where people were dying for want of medical care, hospital beds and shortage of oxygen. He said everyone is worried about the immediate future though a lockdown has been ruled out in Himachal Pradesh.
But several industrial units which had to shut down over the migrant crisis last year are worried about the fresh migration and also about labourers testing positive.
Reports of migration have also been pouring in from Kangra, Chamba, Solan, Bilaspur and Mandi.