Sixty labourers from Dumka who had climbed up Kargil to blast hills and build roads will be flown back home by the Jharkhand government on Friday after being stuck for two months battling anxieties and fears.
The group working for Border Roads Organisation includes a 26-year-old who had had enough of near-death terrains and wild bear, a labourer whose wife eloped, men whose relatives died, farmers who want to be back home before paddy sowing season.
“They will be airlifted from Leh on Friday to Delhi and the same day to Ranchi from where buses will be arranged for onward journey. Jharkhand government will pay the bill, which will be around Rs 8 lakh,” said sources in the Jharkhand Chief Minister’s Office.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren told reporters on Thursday: “I have spoken to the Border Roads Organisation and we are planning to bring the labourers back from Ladakh”.
On Thursday morning, all the 60 boarded a bus to Leh. John Paulis Hansda, a labourer sub-contracted with the BRO, said: “Since the lockdown we had been stranded here. And we hoped that we would be brought back and our prayers were answered.”
Hansda said they received Rs 13,600 as monthly salary since September. According to him, the pay was good, but the terrain was very difficult. “We used to work in Dras, Matiyana area blasting the hills, clearing the ice for making roads. It was full of dangers…we used to live in tents…sometimes wild bears used to take our blankets away. It was hell of an experience, we will not come back again”.
On the way to Leh, Hansda said not all were going back home. “Some stayed back to join when work restarts”.
Labourer Saul Tutu said he owned 10 acres of land. “We have to be present there during the sowing season of paddy. The produce will give us rice to feed our family of six for an entire year,” he said.
Another labourer wishing anonymity said: “A few of us also lost our relatives and we could not go. My wife ran with some other man and left my child with our relatives. I am extremely distressed and I just want to reach home and find out what has happened.”
Hemant Soren through a letter on May 20 informed the Union Home Minister of labourers stuck in Ladakh.
“Every day my office receives distress calls. Due to the terrain of these states it very difficult to evacuate them by buses or trains. One of the viable options is lifting them by air,” the letter said seeking MHA’s permission to allow the flights.
“After permission was given, CMO contacted the labourers and spoke to Border Road Organisation. After all the formalities, they will be brought to Ranchi on May 29,” a CMO source said.
On Thursday morning, around 180 labourers were flown from Mumbai to Jharkhand by the Alumni of National Law School in Bangalore who raised money and hired a flight.
“Today, 180 migrant laborers have returned home safely with the untiring efforts of the Alumni of National Law School, Bangalore and officials of the Government of Jharkhand and Maharashtra…The spirit of humanity has been strengthened by the steps taken to help the needy amidst Corona Virus and will inspire many other individuals and institutions to come forward to help and support the needy,” CM Hemant Soren said on Thursday.
Sheyl Trehan, one of lawyers who coordinated the operation, said: “So we chose Mumbai as the originating city because the cost of living is very high and workers are in much problem there,” she said.
She said they chose Ranchi for operational convenience and based on the feedback, they are thinking of scaling it up to other states such as Bihar or UP.
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