With coronavirus cases surging in Maharashtra once again, it is a scene similar to last year’s when by the end of the complete lockdown in May migrant workers queued up outside railway stations in Mumbai in desperation to return home.
The new COVID-19 protocol in the state has shut non-essential businesses till April 30, which has left several street vendors jobless.
A railway employee said they are inundated with queries about trains to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Among those seen waiting for reservations in queues were the ones who have a hand to mouth existence. Niyaz Ahmed, a 30-year-old from Lucknow, told Indian Express: “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.”
Many people like Niyaz are camping outside railway stations, eager to get a confirmed ticket to their home town, mostly in states in like UP, MP or Bihar.
One Suraj Yadav, 22, 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.”
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 railway official said that trains to UP and Bihar were fully booked for the next few days.
Police are a little lenient with roadside vendors, who sell perishable products like flowers. Most vendors in Dadar were told to close down in the morning, but were allowed to operate by evening. However, they were again made to shut down. It was a similar scene outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.