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Trains, taxis, even flights: Return of migrant workers continues in Punjab

Employers sponsor tickets for their workers as they join back work at factories in Ludhiana.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
June 9, 2020 3:15:06 pm
No action for now if firms don’t pay full wages to staff, says SC Workers at a factory in Ludhiana. (Photo: Gurmeet Singh) (Representational)

As reverse journey of migrant workers continues in Punjab, 12 have returned by air to join back work at a Ludhiana factory, with their tickets being sponsored by their employer.

Srikant, who works as a knitting master in Shri Balaji Processors in Ludhiana’s Tajpur road, had gone back to his village Sundwari in Aurangabad on May 18 on a Shramik train. On June 6, he boarded a flight from Patna to Delhi and later a connecting flight from Delhi to Sahnewal.

Back at the factory, Srikant said, “I have been working in Ludhiana for the past 20 years. I started working at Rs. 1500-1600 per month and now I am earning well. But during lockdown period, I had financial problems, my wife and kids were already in village since mid March, hence I too wanted to go as everyone was going.”

He added: “I had never travelled in an AC coach of a train, what to talk of a flight. Babuji booked flight ticket for me, he must be having urgent work, that’s why he called me via flight. I reached Patna airport on my own and later, I had no hassle in reaching Ludhiana.”

Bobby Jindal, owner of Balaji processors, said,”I spent Rs. 6500 per person on flight tickets for all of them which totalled Rs. 78,000 while four taxis were hired to bring employees from Bihar costing Rs. 15,000 each taxi and Rs. 6,000 I have spent on 3-tier AC tickets of two employees from Gaya. This way, I have spent 1.44 lakh on bringing back 30 employees. Most of them had gone in May only.”

Jindal, who is also the general secretary of Bahadurke Dyeing Association, said,” I have huge demand of cotton clothes. I have a cloth making unit and I am also making blankets. So, I have work, hence I can afford to spend some money on bringing back my workers. I have 400 workers in my factory and 70 are already here. Thirty will be added and I need another 20-30 from Bihar and the rest 70-80 workers, I will arrange from local market. I will have 200 workers by June end. That is more than enough for me to run my unit in single shift.”

Dhanraj, another worker who came via flight for the first time, said,” I wore a nice t-shirt as I came via flight for the first time. Corona tau 1-2 saal chalega, itna der gaon mein nahin beth sakte, paisa kamana bhi zaroori hai.”

Subodh Kumar another worker said,”Ab hamein corona ke saath he jeena hai (Now we have to live with coronavirus).” About travelling by air, he added: “It was a lifetime experience.”

Tarun Bawa Jain, president of Dyeing Association, said,”Everyone is spending some money on their workers to bring them back. Association members are calling their workers via train/ by road or whatever method.”

About smaller units, Badish Jindal, president of Small Industries Forum, said, “A number of workers are calling many small units, we have told them to come whenever trains start from their nearest cities. At the same time, few workers from local villages are also approaching us. So, somehow work is being managed.”

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