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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Migrant workers in Rajkot: ‘Our wait to return home is only getting longer’

"I’ve exhausted almost all my savings and food from NGOs is not regular. My pleas to police to put me on a train have fallen on deaf ears so far. Will the train only come when I die like my brothers in Maharashtra?” Raghuraj Chauhan (23), a native of Lucknow, said.

Written by Gopal Kateshiya | Rajkot | Updated: May 12, 2020 2:34:45 am
Migrant workers, india lockdown, coronavirus cases, Rajkot news, Indian express news Migrant workers walk to railway station to catch a special train in Vadodara. (Photo: Bhupendra Rana)

Even as a Shramik special train departed from Rajkot on Monday, many migrant workers complained that they were in dire straits and that no one was listening to their pleas of sending them back to their native places.

“I have been without any work since March 22. My employer, who is from rural part of Rajkot, has left me to fend for myself. I’ve exhausted almost all my savings and food from NGOs is not regular. My pleas to police to put me on a train have fallen on deaf ears so far. Will the train only come when I die like my brothers in Maharashtra?” Raghuraj Chauhan (23), a native of Lucknow presently living near Ahir Chowk in Rajkot, said on Monday. He used to work in a fabrication shop.

“We need to reach home in Varanasi in time for the birth of our first child. I’ve registered on website of the Gujarat government also I’m yet to get a reply. The labour contractor for whom we work is not helping us at all,” said Amit Kumar, a construction labourer in Rajkot whose wife Nitudevi is expecting to deliver a child in a few days.

Rajkot district collector Remya Mohan said the district administration was working overtime to facilitate return of those who wanted to leave. “But when we have to make arrangements for 1.5 lakh people, it takes time and therefore such complaints are understandable. Turnaround time for one train is seven hours. There is a lot of duplication in lists of workers we are getting so a lot of time is consumed in fixing that. Moreover, the Uttar Pradesh is clearing proposals for one train at a time unlike Madhya Pradesh which is giving clearance for five trains in one go,” Mohan told The Indian Express.

The collector said that till Monday evening, approximately 10,800 migrant workers left in nine Shramik trains from the city and that around 20 more are being arranged. Before they are allowed to board trains, health of every migrant worker is screened.

Viral Gadhvi, police inspector of Bhaktinagar police station, said they were putting migrant workers on first-come-first-served basis. “Around 12,000 migrant workers, through their leaders, have approached Bhaktinagar police station. We are prioritising requests on first-come-first-served basis. I appeal to workers to keep their patience for a few more days,” said Gadhvi.

Paresh Gajera, president of Rajkot Builders Association, said that though the exodus has affected construction activity, the association has directed not to hold back any worker wanting to leave. Gajera further said that they paid for the train tickets for travellers on the train which departed from Rajkot on Sunday.

Some workers are running the risk of taking unauthorised journeys to reach their home and police are taking action against those facilitating such activity.

Gondal Taluka police arrested a man on Saturday for allegedly trying to ferry 54 migrant workers to Nandurbar in Maharashtra on forged papers. Later on, the police and revenue officers secured travel permit for the 54 migrant workers, got their health checked and arranged for an alternate bus for them the same day.

In Ahmedabad, several hundred migrant workers in Naroda and nearby areas of Ahmedabad have been assembling at Kubernagar area to get themselves registered and medically screened to travel back home in Shramik trains.

“Kubernagar is a densely populated area so the migrant workers assemble since morning for registration process and medical screening which is arranged by the mamlatdar. Today, 1,200 wor-kers from Kubernagar left in a Shramik special train to UP,” said D J Chudasama, in charge officer, Meghaninagar police station.

(with Inputs from Vaibhav Jha in Ahmedabad)

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