On May 12, Ramesh Kumar, a migrant worker from Siddharthnagar district in Uttar Pradesh, received the call he had been waiting for days — his application form to travel to Lucknow had been processed and that he would be on a train home the next day. Along with nine others, the 26-year-old reached the allocated meeting point, an open ground, at Saki Naka sharp at 7 am Wednesday.
Till 5 pm, the group waited patiently as officials called out application form numbers of migrants who would be allowed to board the train, scheduled to leave from CSMT. “Our numbers were not called out. We had been standing in the searing heat for the whole day with our luggage as we were assured that our forms have been processed, but were told to return home as the train was full. Several people, who had serial numbers after ours, however, were taken to the station to board the train,” Kumar, who works in a dye unit at Kajupada, said.
While doing rounds of the police chowki to find the status of his form earlier, Kumar claimed he had been approached by men who said they could facilitate his travel much faster for Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.
“I had to take money from my family at Siddharthnagar to survive in Mumbai for the last 50 days. They had sent me Rs 3,000, most of which I had used up to purchase food. The little that was left was meant for the journey home. I told the man that I had nothing to give him,” Kumar said, adding he has since seen many touts roaming the area, asking workers for money to process their forms. “I do not know if this is why others managed to board the train before me, but even on May 12, I saw many of these men roaming on the ground,” he claimed.
Kumar and his group claimed that they also tried to contact the number from where they had received the call that their forms had been processed to understand what had gone wrong. “We got no response,” Kumar said.
Migrant workers stranded in other parts of the city, too, have claimed to have been approached by touts promising to process travel application forms quickly.
Amit Kumar, a migrant from Bihar stranded at Kherwadi, said he had filled the travel form for a group of 16 men over a week ago. “We were told that we will be informed about the day and time of the train journey. We have been waiting since then. Today, when I went to check at the police chowki, a man approached me saying that if I paid him Rs 1,000, he would put my form for consideration faster,” he said, adding the man also assured to take the group to the railway station at the stipulated time.
“At a time when money is scarce, I was worried that I might be fleeced and so I turned down the offer,” Amit said.
Organisations including, Aajeevika Bureau, which are working with stranded migrants, said that workers in areas including Andheri, Kurla, and Wadala had also informed them about being approached by agents who claimed they would help in giving priority to their forms over others.
Mumbai Police spokesperson, Pranay Ashok, said, “If any such person comes to light, strict legal action will be taken against them.”
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