A batch of 1,159 migrant workers from the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat on Wednesday boarded a Shramik train that left for Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday. This is the first of the three trains that the Gujarat government has planned for around 4,000 workers from Alang in Bhavnagar district who registered for being evacuated.
“So far 4,000 migrant workers wanting to return home have enlisted with us. The biggest group is from Uttar Pradesh,” said Gaurang Makwana, District Collector of Bhavnagar, which has 76 COVID-19 positive cases and stands next to Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot in the number of cases.
On Wednesday, workers who bought train tickets travelled 40 kilometres in buses from Alang to Bhavnagar railway station.
“Alang is a segregated zone and there has been no positive cases from there so far. Still we screened every migrant worker who will be travelling by the train from Bhavnagar to Gorakhpur,” he added.
The District Collector said that on Thursday, the district administration plans to run a special Shramik train to Jharkhand for 1,400 Alang workers who have registered with the administration. “Let’s see how many of them turn up for the medical screening today. We will need around 1,200 workers to turn up for the screening process to be able to run a train for Jharkhand on Thursday,” Makwana said.
Apart from migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, those wanting to return to Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal have also listed their names. “On Friday we are planning third train from Bhavnagar to Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh). However, this train will not be just for the workers from Alang,” he added.
There are about 91 workers from Odisha who want to return. Officials from the district administration said that they are making lists for each state and will run trains once more than 1,100 workers headed for one state gets registered.
According to Sanjay Singh, secretary of Alang-Sosiya Ship Recycling and General Workers’ Association, the body had prepared a list of around 2,500 workers wanting to return home. “Some of the workers also gave their names to the plot owners at Alang,” Singh said adding that some of the workers returning home had last taken a break during Diwali in 2019.
The workers are wanting to return though work resumed at the yard on April 20. “There are over 65 plots where ship-breaking activity is going on. However, the work is slow as the markets in other parts of the state and country are yet to open,” Singh added.
The Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA) felt that the exodus of migrant workers from Alang will adversely affect the ship-breaking activity. “The work will definitely be affected as ship-breaking is a labour intensive industry,” said Haresh Parmar, secretary of SRIA.
Parmar who had about 90 workers on his plot at Alang says, “About 50-60 of them now want to go back. We cannot stop them.”
’69 trains left Gujarat’
The train that left Bhavnagar with workers from Alang is among the 30 trains that left Gujarat on Wednesday. Since May 2, a total of 69 trains carrying 67,000 migrant workers have left for states like UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha.
Ashwani Kumar, secretary to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said, “Gujarat is the only state in the country which has been allocated maximum number of Shramik trains in the last four days… A total of 39 trains have originated from different cities of Gujarat and gone to UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. Today 30 more trains are going. Tomorrow, more trains are planned.”
On Wednesday, 30 trains left Gujarat with 22,800 migrants to Uttar Pradesh (18 trains), Bihar (7), Odisha (3) and Jharkhand (2). So far 3.75 lakh migrants have left Gujarat, the state government said
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