A delay in the running of the Shramik special trains to ferry migrant workers to their home-states resulted in a scuffle between workers and the police in Kerala’s Kozhikode and Kannur districts Tuesday.
Around 100 labourers from Bihar assembled in Parakkadavu near Kuttyadi in Kozhikode district violating social distancing norms and demanding immediate transportation to take them back home. They were miffed that while workers from Odisha and Jharkhand had already reached home by special trains they were still stuck in Kerala without any earnings for the past two months. They complained that train services were not being arranged to take them to Bihar.
Though the local village officer reached the spot and attempted to pacify them by saying that trains to Bihar would begin from May 20, the workers were not pleased. The officer also suggested an alternate plan of arranging buses if they were ready to pay Rs 6500 each for the over 2500-km journey. They didn’t agree to it either as they didn’t have the financial resources to pay such a large amount.
Around the same time, the Perambra Police got a call from locals that the workers had begun to protest.
“We immediately rushed and requested them to return to their rooms. We tried to convince them that trains will be run from May 20 as per the schedule. But some of them started pushing us back. One of them tried to grab the lathi from me. There was a scuffle and we had to use force to drive them away,” said Maneesh, the sub-inspector at Perambra.
A case under bailable sections has been registered against three migrant workers for manhandling the police officers.
“They were disappointed that while a few of their fellow workers from Odisha and Jharkhand who lived with them had already reached home, they were still here. The village officer had been persuading them over the last few days to wait till trains are run again,” the officer said.
Asked about shortage of food and essential supplies in the migrant camps, the officer said the landlord of the building where they stay has been providing them ration.
Unrest among migrants was reported Tuesday in Kannur district as well. Nearly 100 workers from Uttar Pradesh who had attempted to walk back home through rail-tracks were detained by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and handed over to the Kannur city police who arranged buses to take them back to their rooms.
One of the workers told Manorama news channel, “We are facing a lot of difficulties. We are not getting adequate ration and we are eating only once a day.”
Following detailed talks with the police and revenue officials, the workers were transported back to their camps by state transport buses. Authorities promised them they would look into complaints of food supply and lack of medical help in such migrant camps.
Acknowledging that such incidents of demonstrations by migrant workers, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said DySP-rank police officers will visit all labour camps and ensure the supply of ration, essential commodities and medical services. They will convince the workers to remain in their lodging and ensure all safety practices until train services are re-started to take them home.
The Railways had announced to run five trains from Kerala to different parts of Bihar in the first week of May. But all five services were subsequently cancelled after the Bihar government denied permission for the same. The cancellation of services had come as a big jolt to those from Bihar as they had been without a stable income for the past two months.
On Tuesday, the Railway revised its guidelines for the running of Shramik special trains by making it clear that the consent of destination states is no longer required to operate more services. With thousands of migrants on the road, the Railways has asked all states to order as many trains as possible to take the workers home.