Good Samaritans in Uniform

LIFE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 -- 7: Almaas Masood in Hyderabad recalls the Medchal Police’s yeoman service to migrant workers.


Photo by Almaas Masood / NSoJ

Migrant workers walking towards a highway to return.

Heading home.

Roti and tattered footwear strewn all along the highway.

Workers waiting for their name to be called out to board the buses / Photos by Almaas Masood

On May 19, India reached one lakh confirmed COVID-19 cases. At a time when the virus was spreading rapidly, a widespread panic surged among the people, leading to an overwhelming interstate movement of stranded daily-wage migrant workers. The Indian Railways started ‘Shramik’ special trains to evacuate migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and others stranded in different cities owing to the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 27.

In Telangana hundreds of migrant workers walked, cycled, hitchhiked their way to the Outer Ring Road to access the national highways where travel passes were being issued, and buses were being arranged to take them to railway stations or to their States directly. Apart from the state-run transport services, there were many truckers willing to drop these migrant workers at the State borders illegally while charging them exorbitant prices. One such migrant worker said: “Most truck drivers charged us between Rs.1,500 and Rs.3,000 per head.”

With no jobs and no income during the previous two months, these daily wage earners and their families further fell into debt traps just so they could get back to the safety of their homes.

Camps were set up by local NGOs and Medchal police on the national highway where food and water were provided to the migrants. A special booth was also set up for migrant women and children.

The SHO of Medchal police, Praveen Reddy, personally ensured that anybody who wished to leave was not left behind. He also made sure every person travelling had sufficient water, and distributed packets of food enough to last their journeys. He converted a function hall into a camp from where he got his team of police personnel to help stranded students and workers who wished to travel back. At a time when there was confusion all around on obtaining the travel passes, he made sure to make the experience seamless and hassle-free for everybody.

On reaching the camp, the workers were segregated based on the States they were going to and travel passes were issued to them immediately. Then they were made to get on their respective buses, handed food and water enough to last through the journey. This was done seamlessly and promptly, ensuring that nobody was left behind against their will.

These buses would then take them to railway stations from where they boarded the Shramik special trains to their respective States.

Praveen Reddy and his men waited till the last of the passengers was on board before going home. These migrant workers had been stranded in Hyderabad for two months.

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