Covid-19: Migrant workers protest across India, demand to be sent back home

A health worker sanitises migrants, who arrived from Jaipur in a Shramik Special train, at Danapur junction near Patna. JD(U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar was earlier opposed to the idea of bringing labourers back to their home states Photo: PTI
The Union Home Ministry allowed inter-state movement of migrant labourers and stranded tourists, pilgrims and students during the lockdown, last week. Even as the central and state governments are arranging trains and buses to ferry the migrants, several protests have errupted in several parts of the country. On Monday as well, stranded workers took to the roads demanding to be sent back home; several isolated stone pelting incidents were also reported.

In Telangana, on Monday, several migrant labourers were sent back to their native state from Golkonda limits of Hyderabad by buses. Out of them, 100 migrant labourers were sent to Jharkhand by two private buses. "There are about 6000 migrant labourers in Golconda limit and till now we have issued passes to about 500 members and will soon issue to others as well," an inspector told ANI. "The migrants who want to leave with the help of government are sending a request online to the state govt, while the ones who are willing to go on their own are going to the police," he added.

In Andhra Pradesh, police resorted to lathi-charge at a large group of migrant workers, protesting in West Godavari district demanding to be sent to their home states. Over 300 migrant labourers held agitation and reportedly pelted stones at the police.

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Enthused by the huge response, South Western Railway (SWR) operated three more special trains from Bengaluru to ferry over 3500 stranded migrant workers. One train left for Jaipur, Rajasthan on Monday while two were sent to Danapur, Bihar. Three more trains for Bhubaneswar in Odisha, Danapur, and Hatia. "In all, 7,184 migrants were sent to different states in the past 36 hours. " another official told IANS.

A similar train to Howrah could not be run as the state government is waiting for a response from Bengal govt for receiving migrants and screening them on arrival.

Meanwhile, another group of migrants, mostly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, blocked national highways near Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) in Karnataka, demanding to be sent back to their home state. 

A special train, carrying around 1200 migrant workers, left from Surat for Jharkhand on Monday while maintaining adequate social distancing norms at the railway station. However, reportedly, they had to pay Rs 720 as train fare.

The West Bengal government launched an app for people from other states who are stranded in Bengal due to the lockdown and want to return to their native place. The app can be downloaded from the state government's 'Egiye Bangla' website.

Meanwhile, Mamata's TMC joined the chorus in criticising the Centre for charging money from migrant labourers on Monday. Earlier, in the day Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi offered to pay the fares, following which the Railways decided to bear 85 per cent of the fare, while the rest 15 per cent would be paid by states. 

In Punjab's Ludhiana, migrant workers blocked roads, allegedly over unavailability of ration. Deputy Commissioner, Pradeep Agrawal, said: "We have made a system where message is sent to people's contact number, notifying them of date, time and location for ration distribution." For further enquiry, he requested people to call them on helpline numbers, following which they will provide the details of designated spots for the distribution of ration.

An FIR has been lodged against over 400 unidentified migrant workers for stone pelting at police in Sendhwa area of Barwani, Madhya Pradesh. The incident in which at least 3 police personnel were injured happened on Sunday. Activist Medha Patkar held a protest in the district demanding immediate resolution of the problems faced by stranded labourers, and aid provided from the PM Cares Fund.

Haryana also reported protests and incidents of stone-pelting by the migrants, who came out on the roads at a few places including Yamunanagar and Jind districts. Some of them have claimed they were not paid wages by their employers and wanted to go back to their homes, mostly in UP and Bihar.

Maharashtra minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik alleged that the Uttar Pradesh government was purposefully putting stringent conditions for the repatriation of migrants staying in Maharashtra in a bid to avoid accepting them.

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