Day laborers fill trains from Mumbai as the virus depletes work

Mumbai, India (AP) —Immigrant workers flock to railway stations in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, and go to their home villages as anti-virus measures are depleting jobs in the affected areas.

“What am I doing now?” Asked Ramzan Ali, who earned up to Rs 500 ($ 7) a day as a worker but was absent from work for two weeks.

He arrived at Kulhoura station on Friday morning and joined a long line to buy a ticket to catch a train to his village, Balrampur, in northern Uttar Pradesh. Ali, 47, wants to find a job in the village to feed his wife and four children.

The Maharashtra state government imposed a 15-day blockade-like curb on Wednesday to check for the spread of the virus. It closed most industries, businesses and public places and restricted the movement of people, but did not stop buses, trains and aviation services.

A panicked day laborer continued to escape by carrying a backpack on a crowded train leaving Mumbai — a trip that caused the threat of infection in rural areas.

Maharashtra is at the center of the recent record surge in the United States. On Friday, India hit another high of 217,353 new cases in the last 24 hours, pushing that total to the past 14.2 million. The Ministry of Health has also reported 1,185 deaths in the last 24 hours, with 174,308 deaths.

The influx of migrant workers is not as desperate as last year when the Indian Railways shut down all passenger trains during a severe and sudden national blockade. This has forced tens of thousands of poor migrant workers to walk and ride trucks and buses in the heat of the heat.

Also, in northern states such as Punjab, Haryana, and New Delhi, and in western Rajasthan, large-scale migration of migrant workers has not yet been seen due to the harvest season. Larger farms harvest wheat and other crops and hire workers to prepare for sowing new crops.

24-year-old Mohammad Aslam, a tailor in Mumbai, says he has been idle for 18 days. He planned to take the train with his relatives and others heading to the town of Muzaffarpur in eastern Bihar.

“My extended family has a farm there and I can make some money by working there,” he said.

27-year-old Shiva Sanjeev is desperate to catch the train because his 70-year-old grandfather is seriously ill in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. “I’m getting a desperate call from my parents and other family members to get back to my hometown.”