CHANDIGARH: In a desperate attempt to get home, migrant labourers in Punjab and Haryana are paying Rs 100 per person to cross Ghaggar and Yamuna rivers on their way to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Since inter-state borders are sealed and no movement is allowed without permission from authorities, many workers are risking their lives by crossing rivers. Sources said that in the last few days, the migrants have been crossing into Shamli and Saharanpur districts in Uttar Pradesh from various places in Yamunagar, Karnal and Panipat districts of Haryana.
During the journey, they have to wade through the Yamuna, at places where the water is almost three feet high either by foot or using inflated tyre tubes tied to bamboo sticks to stay afloat. “They are charged around Rs 100 per person to cross the river by the people who provide them with the tubes,’’ said an official on conditions of anonymity. “I have not worked for the last two months and the money I had is over so I am left with no choice but to go back home.
The landlord asked me to pay rent but I had no money so left and started walking back home with other fellow migrants,” said a migrant from Ludhiana. “We were checked by the doctors and given slips that we were medically fit but nobody arranged any transport for us. We were told that trains are running but did not know how to book so we started on our journey back home on cycles,’’ said another worker near Ropar who had started on foot from Jalandhar.
A migrant on his way to Bihar, who reached Yamunanagar in Haryana, said he had cycled for more than 200 kilometres from Punjab and will now cross the river into UP. Meanwhile, NGO Khalsa Aid, has set up a food stall on NH-1 near Rajpura in Punjab to provide food to the migrants. “All these people are walking on empty stomachs with their belongings and with their entire families. Thus we have set up a food stall where our teams are providing food and drinks to them. We provide fruits, packed meals, water bottles and juices to give them some relief in this scorching heat,” said Amarpreet Singh, Director of Khalsa Aid.