Many workers attempted to sneak out on their own, violence and chaos along the inter-state borders

The sheer scale of the reverse migration that was on a leash until a few days ago started to unravel on Saturday as the first “Shramik Special” trains carrying a few thousand lucky migrant workers reached their destinations while millions of others — 40 lakh in Gujarat and Maharashtra alone — scrambled to register for evacuation, attempted to sneak out on their own or massed on borders.
In Gujarat, desperation spawned violence and chaos along the inter-state borders after police prevented thousands of migrant workers from leaving. Stranded without food and cash, some resorted to stone-pelting at border checkpoints in Dahod, bordering MP, and Shamlaji on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border in Aravalli district.
Violence was also reported on the outskirts of Vadodara, where nearly 2,000 people defied orders to return. One migrant worker suffered a head injury in a clash with police while two others were injured when cops baton-charged a mob at Jarod near Vadodara.
At least four buses carrying nearly 200 migrants from UP were forced to return to Surat from Dahod despite the travellers claiming to have valid transit passes. Dahod collector Vijay Kharadi, however, said no such permission had been given.
Of the 20 lakh migrants waiting to leave Gujarat, the majority are from UP (5.5 lakh), Bihar (3.8 lakh), Odisha (3.5 lakh) and MP (3 lakh). The total also includes 11,000 people from Nepal, according to data collated from reports sent by the collectors of all 33 districts.
Maharashtra, too, witnessed a rush to register for inter and intra-state transit passes a day after the first migrant train departed from the state and police stations in cities were authorised to accept applications for travel. The 94 police stations in Mumbai alone received 15,000 applications. The state disaster control room got 7,000 requests via email. Many, though, were unhappy about the cumbersome application process and the fact that they would have to foot the bill to go home despite a loss of livelihood during the lockdown.
As word got out that a train might leave from Bhiwandi on the outskirts of Thane to UP’s Gorakhpur with 1,200 passengers late on Saturday, a 5,000-strong crowd gathered at the station in the evening. Cops and district officials had to convince them to leave, police sources said.
Maharashtra has an estimated 15-20 lakh migrant population, of whom around five lakh are in relief camps.
The Ratanpur checkpoint on Rajasthan’s border with Gujarat witnessed snaking queues of migrant workers waiting for their turn to register and be screened before the onward journey home by bus.
The inter-state border was opened on April 26 for those coming from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and MP with valid transit passes.