LUCKNOW: Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur regions are known as the land of migrants. These areas are witnessing yet another story of the people being wooed back by their employers hundreds of miles away from their native places where they returned during the Covid-induced lockdown.
In most cases, employers arrange all-expenses-paid trips via road, rail or air back to the cities. Buses from various states arrive with a representative at Jhansi to bring these workers back to cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
A majority of these semi-skilled migrant workers are engaged as MGNREGS workers or in small factories. The state created 26.14 crore-person days of jobs under six months as against an annual target of 26 crore-person days. They were also given free ration till they got a job.
In their return to cities, the rural economic distress has played a role. When the crisis began, the UP government claimed it would absorb all the migrants, around 37 lakh, who returned during the pandemic. Over 32 lakh migrants were mapped on the basis of their skills.
Labour minister Swami Prasad Maurya has said the state succeeded in providing employment to a large number of migrants as per their skills. The skill-mapping led to employment in the MSME sector across the state, he said.
While many found the alternative arrangements near their native places acceptable, there are others who believe these avenues as purely temporary and not as gainful as their jobs in big cities were. So, whenever they get an opportunity, they rush to get their jobs back.
The occupancy data of trains originating from the NE Railway headquarters at Gorakhpur shows that a bulk of migrant workforce is heading back to states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Delhi.
Five trains — Kushinagar Special, Gorakhpur-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Superfast, Gorakhpur Special, Avadh Special and Sabarmati Express — all originating from or passing Gorakhpur, are running with full occupancy. No ticket is available in these trains till December 31, this year. Similar is the case with Pushpak Special from Lucknow to Mumbai.
Railway officials in Gorakhpur said most passengers travelling through Gujarat and Maharashtra-bound trains consist of migrants returning to their jobs.
During the migrant influx, the socio-economically backward region of eastern UP received the maximum number of labourers. Out of the top 10 divisions of UP where maximum influx was reported, seven included from eastern UP — Gorakhpur, Devipatan, Basti, Ayodhya, Azamgarh, Varanasi and Chitrakoot — and Bundelkhand. The least had returned to western UP and Rohilkhand.
So, the outflow of workers is the largest from eastern UP. Buses full of skilled workers, especially jewelry-makers, are seen ferrying migrants from eastern UP to Rajkot, Surat and Mumbai.
Local sources said movement of buses with registration numbers of Gujarat and Maharashtra has increased in the Varanasi division.
The workers went back despite Diwali holidays, which was actually the time for them in the previous years to head home.
An agent leading a group of labourers at the airport claimed that youths leaving for Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru from Varanasi were mainly from Jaunpur, Azamgarh and Sonbhadra. Their airfare is being borne by employers.
The Lucknow airport is also seeing a surge in migrant workers boarding flights for Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru.
- As per an estimation, around 2.40 crore workers return to their original places of work. Majority from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
- Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur regions among 7 UP divisions which witnessed maximum influx of migrants during pandemic.
- Out of top 10 UP divisions, seven including Gorakhpur, Devipatan, Basti, Ayodhya, Azamgarh, Varanasi and Chitrakoot witnessed with maximum migrant influx.
- Least number of migrants had returned to western UP and Rohilkhand.
- Eastern UP districts record steady outflow of workforce.
- Factory owners, real estate businessmen, construction agencies arranging return of migrants by road, rail and flights.
- Movement of buses with registration numbers of Gujarat and Maharashtra increases in Varanasi division during past one month.
- Buses full of skilled workforce seen ferrying migrants from eastern UP to Rajkot, Surat and Mumbai.
- Chaudhury Charan Singh airport in Lucknow witnesses a surge in migrant workers boarding flights for Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru.
- Around 500 labourers board flights daily.