Kicked out of his job in Punjab’s Ludhiana, Vijay Kumar headed home to Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, often keeping to village roads to avoid police and wading through the Ghaggar river with his wife and 11-year-old daughter.
After repeated efforts, he could not book any of the special Shramik trains.
Kumar says he decided to return home, over 1,000 km away from Ludhiana, when his employer told him to vacate the room where he was staying.
Kumar says he worked in a garment factory and was not paid for over a month.
Since the Punjab Police was not allowing migrant labourers to cross the state border, Kumar says he travelled through villages.
He had to wade through a stretch of the Ghaggar river near the Punjab-Haryana border to reach Ambala on Saturday morning.
Like Kumar, other migrant workers have been forced to make similar journeys to reach their homes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar after rendered jobless due to the lockdown imposed to check the coronavirus spread.
Another group of migrant workers and their families crossed the same river to enter Ambala district, hoping to find a way home.
A youth who was part of the group said he worked in an industrial unit in Ludhiana.
“There has been no work for us since the lockdown. I have exhausted all my savings and the house owner too had been putting pressure for rent for the past over a week. How long could we continue like this. So, we decided to go home,” he said.
Ambala Deputy Commissioner Ambala Ashok Sharma said the administration has sent several migrant labourers from Ambala to their destinations in Bihar and UP through buses and trains.
Labourers entering Haryana are kept in relief shelters till arrangements are made for their journey ahead, officials said.
A week ago, the Haryana administration had stepped in, accommodating them in relief shelters.
Officials said migrant workers are being sent to their villages only after they register with the district administration and their home states have given approval to receive them.
Many migrants who entered Haryana had said that not all of them were able to register online. They sought help from the government, saying arrangements should be made for their journey back home.
There have been similar reports recently of migrants, including women and children, of crossing the Yamuna river from the Haryana side to enter Uttar Pradesh.
Yamunanagar Deputy Commissioner Mukul Kumar said this has not come to his notice.
However, on Saturday he led a team of police and civil administration officials to check if any migrant was using the river route.
“Since morning, we have been on the round. Our enforcement teams are also on job, but we did not come across any migrant crossing the Yamuna river,” he said on Saturday.
In Faridabad district of Haryana, which abuts the national capital, migrant workers, were seen waiting on footpaths late in the night, with many hoping truck drivers will take them to some distance.
Some claimed they had reached the highway from Delhi and Ghaziabad.
A woman with a child on her lap said she was going to Jhansi with her family.
Some said after the imposition of the lockdown, they were left with no work and though the government made food arrangements for them, they still wanted to go home.