April 22, 2021 5:36:18 am
Raj Kumar Chaudhary, a resident of Malda district in West Bengal, is in a tearing hurry. He does not want to miss the train back to his home state as he has to cast his vote on April 29, which is the last phase of elections in Bengal.
“I do not want to waste my vote though it cost me dear. I have to sacrifice 15 days of labour as I will be back by May 5 after the results,” he said.
Chaudhary is not the only labourer headed to Bengal. Many others are going with him as three phases of elections are yet to be conducted in Bengal on April 22, 26 and 29.
Manoj Kumar of Uttar Pradesh (UP) had also boarded a special private bus near Jalandhar Bus stand Tuesday because panchayat elections are being conducted there in various phases.
“I have been working in Jalandhar’s grain market for the past two decades and also work in potato fields. I came here in February for potato harvesting and wheat procurement in April and May, but this time, due to elections, I have to leave wheat procurement work midway,” said Chaudhary.
Dinkar Kumar of Murshidabad also boarded a train to vote on April 26.
Nand Kishore, a resident of Bahraich in (UP), said elections in his village will be held on April 26 and he came to know that special buses are being run by some private companies to the state. “So I decided to go by bus instead of train through the fare of the bus is four times more,” he said.
Kishore spends around eight months of the year in Punjab. For around four months he works in the grain mandis during procurement of wheat and paddy. The rest of the time he pulls a rickshaw or does whatever other labour work he can get.
Several labourers are returning their native states to vote, even though they would have made good money at the peak of wheat procurement season.
In Jalandhar, many private bus operators have become active and are running special buses to UP ahead of the next phase of panchayat elections there. These bus services are charging Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 fare per person.
These buses will be run for the next two days, said a driver of one such bus.
“Hum chaar paise bana lete hain kanak ki katai ke samay par chunav bhi jaruri hai isliye vapis ja rahe hain (We make good money during wheat procurement season but elections are also necessary that is why we are returning home),” he said, adding that he still felt bad about missing out on work.
“We earn minimum Rs 500 a day during harvesting season and this amount helps us a lot back home,” said Amit Kumar of UP working in Jalandhar grain market.
Rakesh Tuli, president of the Anaj Mandi Mazdoor Union, Punjab, said several migrants who used to come for wheat season preferred to stay back due to elections in UP and West Bengal and those who had come are also going back as per the election date of their respective areas. “We had managed with local labour last year and this time also we have a good number of local labourers available with us,” he said, adding that even some are fearing lockdown like last year and wanted to return as soon as possible to their native places.
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