MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government had demanded special trains from Mumbai to some places in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to allow migrant workers to return to their natives places, but the Centre did not respond to it, a state minister said on Wednesday.
More than 1,000 migrant workers, most of them from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, gathered near Bandra railway station here on Tuesday afternoon.
They were demanding that the state government make transport arrangements so that they can go back to their native towns and villages.
The migrants were dispersed after a couple of hours and were assured accommodation and food till the lockdown lasts, a police official earlier said.
"The state government was well aware of the demands of migrant labourers that they wanted to return their home.
It is evident that if there is no work, no one will allow them to stay at their current temporary accommodations in Mumbai or other parts of the state, the minister told PTI.
Just before the announcement of lockdown last month, there were reports of how migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were rushing to board any train heading towards their hometowns, he said.
"That was the first time, we had requested the Centre to run special trains, he said.
On March 29, when Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said his government had set up some 163 centres across the state to provide food, water and temporary shelter to the migrant labourers, the state administration was able quantify the approximate figures of migrant labourers.
"The figure was between five to six lakh - of people who had approached the state run centres.
Some of them had already started walking towards their hometowns while some tried to hide inside containers or tankers to reach their homes," a Shiv Sena MP from Mumbai said.
A fresh update was shared with the Centre, but "it was turned down" again, he said.
"We informed the Centre that we will provide enough food to these migrants so that they could reach their homes.
With most of the rail routes closed, the trains leaving from Mumbai to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar would have reached in much shorter time, he said.
A basic list of stations was also prepared with the help of local contractors of migrant labourers about their current location in Mumbai and at which particular station they would alight in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, he said.
The plan also included a condition that the state will allow only fit and healthy migrants to travel, while those having any kind of illness will be admitted to state-run hospital for treatment, the Shiv Sena leader said.
It would have certainly restricted spread of any contagious disease, he said.
"I wonder why such an idea was turned down.
After all, these are the people who would suffer a lot," he said.
The issue of running dedicated trains for migrant workers had come up during the video conference meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers of various states, but received no positive response, another senior Shiv Sena leader said.
"The government has categorically said it would arrange food for these people for next three months, but it is their request that they want to go home.
We simply want to facilitate them, he added.