The Thane traffic police on Thursday intercepted nine luxury buses at Majiwada Junction in Thane filled with migrants travelling out of state. The buses did not have permits to travel out of state and had double the capacity of passengers on board, in blatant violation of Covid-19 guidelines.
The migrants, employed at hotels and construction sites in Mumbai, had decided to go back to their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, having heard the recent announcements by the state government of a lockdown on weekends and strict restrictions and night curfew on weekdays.
Most of them had only recently returned to Mumbai, assuming the worst was over, only to find themselves having to pack up once again and go home. “Most of us suffered last year, living in crowded rooms with no food to eat. And walking innumerable miles on the road, trying to reach home. After the second lockdown recently, we lost our jobs. Staying here is expensive. Instead of waiting till a complete lockdown is declared, we have decided to leave Mumbai and remain happily with our families,” said a 30-year-old migrant worker, who had reached home in Uttar Pradesh after almost five days last year.
Balasaheb Patil, Deputy Commissioner, Thane Traffic Police, said, “We have started the drive to ‘Break the Chain’ and are taking action against motorists violating the guidelines imposed by the government. On Thursday we received information about migrants from Mumbai who had arranged a bus at Majiwada junction to travel out of state. It would have been impossible for a bus full of passengers to pass through Mumbai unnoticed by authorities, so they decided to meet at Majiwada, Thane, which is directly connected to the Nashik highway. Accordingly, our team was stationed at the spot and we intercepted several such buses,” said Patil.
“Firstly, they didn't have a permit to travel out of state. They had fake RTO permits. We detected the fake permits when we saw that the names in it didn't match those of the passengers. The buses were crowded and in violation of the Covid-19 guidelines imposed by the government. They were supposed to travel at 50 per cent capacity, but the number of people on board were double the capacity of the bus,” added Patil. He has appealed to outstation travellers to follow the guidelines imposed by the state government or face action.
Suresh Lambhate, senior police inspector, Kapurbawadi traffic unit, confirmed about the buses being intercepted at Majiwada Junction on Thursday between 4 and 5pm. “The passengers came from Mumbai in private vehicles and were loading their luggage at Thane. On finding violations of guidelines, we evacuated all the passengers and seized the buses. On two sleeper coaches, there were double the number of passengers. Most of them were travelling to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, having paid Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 per head. Finding themselves without work, they decided to travel back,” Lambhate said.
The Kapurbawdi traffic unit released the buses on finding the bus drivers and documents including licences and paper of the bus. “We released all the buses. Three of the bus owners were detained and produced in court on Friday. The court fined them Rs 2,200 and 2,500 per bus. As for the remaining buses, we have seized the licence and papers and once the owner shows up, he will be produced in court. All the bus owners were booked under section 66 (necessity for permits), 192 (using vehicle without registration) and 179 (disobedience of orders, obstruction and refusal of information) of the Motor Vehicle Act and investigation is underway,” said Lambhate. He added that the workers had been counselled about the guidelines and the travel options. “We assured them that travel was allowed by the government, but they have to follow social distancing while doing so,” he added.