Unable to afford the cost of hiring a bus from Mumbai and the wait for a Shramik Special proving to be too long, thousands of jewellery workers from across the city are now booking private buses all the way from West Bengal to return home. Scores of buses, after a three-day journey from Howrah, are lining the narrow lanes of Zaveri Bazar to take the workers back home.
The workers turned to private buses from West Bengal after bus operators in the city were willing to make the trip. Ranjeet Datta, president, Paschim Bangal Welfare Association, said that it was after reaching out to several private operators in the city, who either refused or quoted high prices, that they turned to operators in West Bengal.
“When we approached private operators in the city, none of them were even willing to quote a price and simply refused. After a lot of persuasion, they quoted about Rs 15,000 per person,” said Datta.
Since May 16, private buses from West Bengal have taken back 35,000-40,000 workers, charging about Rs 6,500 per passenger, according to Datta. “Most workers are not paying themselves, instead their employees are paying for the trip,” he said.
Prasanajeet Roy, driver of one of the buses, said that the cost of a trip is about Rs 2.30 lakh with Rs 1.30 lakh spent on fuel alone. “We are not looking at huge profits. A little profit after the lull is welcome,” he said, adding that he was happy to ferry people back home.
After reaching Mumbai, permission from local police stations is taken for the return journey.
These buses go up to Howrah, dropping workers along the way. Raju Jana (29), who worked at ZaverI Bazar for nine years, finally returned on Friday.
Raju’s owner paid Rs 7,000 for his journey to Howrah. “My owner paid for my trip, whenever I return, I’ll work and pay him off,” said Jana, who has elderly parents back home and, after the cyclone, was anxious to be back.
Sandeep Ghosh, who had registered with MIDC police station on May 5, even got a call on Friday and was asked to assemble at Sakha Patil Garden at Charni Road. “I reached at 9 am and then at around 12 pm, a police officer said the train had been cancelled,” said Ghosh, who then took a bus on Friday evening along with 30 others for West Bengal.
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