Though Shramik special trains are being run from Punjab to send over 16.9 lakh migrants (registered till May 19) back to their homes, the state has so far not chalked out a definite roadmap to bring back over 72,000 Punjabis stuck in different parts of the country.
A few are hence managing on their own by taking lifts from roadside truckers, some are cycling back while many others wait for government help.
Such is the story of three combine drivers — Jagseer Singh of Kotkapura of Faridkot district, Vicky and Jaspal Singh of Chananwal village of Barnala district.
On Monday, Jagseer, in his mid 30s, started his journey back home from Masal village of Purnia district, Bihar, by bicycle, which he purchased for Rs 4,500. Before that, he got a lift from a UP-based trucker. “I offered to help him load maize onto his truck.
In return he agreed to drop me till Ambala, from where I will cycle 250 km to reach Kotkapura.” His friends Vicky and Jaspal are staying back as they got two days’ combine repair work.
Jagseer said, “We all had come together to Purnia before lockdown for wheat harvest. We work as combine drivers and also repair these machines and get around Rs 1,000-1,200 per day for operating the machine, combine drivers from Punjab come to many states for harvesting of crops. Due to lockdown the wheat harvest was delayed, but despite that we are sitting free for almost a month now. Normally, we harvest crop in Bihar, a little before Punjab, and later work in Punjab. After that in May we go to West Bengal for harvest of summer paddy crop. But this time, our plans went haywire. I earned Rs 20,000 from harvest work and so did the other two. We ate from our own pocket here, though the landlord allowed us to live in a small dingy room in the fields of Masal village till now for free. We had approached AAP MLA from Kotkapura Kultar Singh Sandhwan as I am from Kotkapura, a call came from CMO office Punjab after which Bihar officials approached us, but they clearly told us that we will have to pay for our journey. How can we pay? Hence I decided to go back Monday itself.”
Jagseer’s wife Paramjeet Kaur and their three sons live in Kotkapura. “We got ration from the Punjab government once. We are living in a rented accommodation and rent is yet to be paid as my husband has not come back since mid March. We will do paddy sowing so we can pay the pending rent,” said Paramjeet.
Vicky said, “People are coming back to Bihar from Delhi, Punjab, Mumbai in Bihar. However, it is really sad that we are not being helped out as we want to go to our houses while migrants in Punjab are being sent via trains free of cost.”
Jaspal added, “There are many others stuck in Bihar and that too scattered and hence we are not being considered important.” All had registered themselves on the Punjab government portal 15 days ago.
As Jagseer sought help from AAP MLA Sandhwan, he tweeted his information to the CMO office, which said it was looking into the matter. After his tweet, many other Punjabis stuck in UP, Rajasthan, Haryana also tweeted to Sandhwan.
Rahul Tiwari, nodal officer of the state covid control room (SCCR) said, “We are in touch with the states and have asked them to arrange trains or buses for Punjabis. Though we are paying the train fare of people going out of Punjab, we are ready to bear cost of our own residents who will be coming from outside Punjab…We appeal to people not to walk or come by cycle.”
A total of 72,978 people registered themselves to come from other states to Punjab till May 17.
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