72 arrested in a foiled bid to smuggle migrants from Kochi

72 arrested in a foiled bid to smuggle migrants from Kochi
Migrants, who attempted to flee to Rajasthan, stopped on their way amid the nationwide lockdown.

Seventy-two migrant labourers from Kochi who tried to smuggle their way back to Rajasthan in the back of a truck were arrested by the Tamil Nadu police at Kakkanahalli near Gudalur bordering Karnataka on Thursday.

A case has also been registered against the truck driver and its owner.

Police believe that it's the same agency which hired these migrants that's responsible for this drastic move amid the coronavirus lockdown.

The group has been dispatched back to Kochi on buses arranged by the Tamil Nadu government.

It is unclear how the group traversed multiple checkpoints at the district and state borders to get as far as Kakkanahalli.

Shramik trains ferrying migrants home

Migrant labourers waiting for the train that will get them home
Migrant labourers waiting for the train that will get them home

Special trains had been arranged by the Indian Railways to ferry migrant labourers stranded in various places following the imposition of the lockdown.

In Kerala, over 15,000 migrant labourers have already left for their home trains in these 'Shramik' trains from various stations including Aluva, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.

Kochi, being the commercial capital of the state, has the highest number of migrant labourers.

However, in wake of several states denying them permission, many Shramik trains had to be cancelled and hundreds of migrants were left in the lurch.

"Trains are being run by the Railways only after concurrence is given both by the state which is sending the passengers and the state which is receiving them," the Railways clarified. Over 800 trains were cancelled as a result.

Though employees were asked to take care of the migrant labourers until train services resume, many of them were reportedly reluctant to provide accommodation and other facilities.

Migrant unrest

Migrants protesting in Thiruvananthapuram
Migrants protesting in Thiruvananthapuram

With no work and money for the last fifty days, migrant labourers in the state have grown very restless, resorting to incidents of violence in Thiruvananthapuram and other places.

On April 10, migrant labourers had hit the streets at Paippad village in Kottayam district, urging the government to arrange vehicles for them to return home.

On April 30, a group of migrant labourers in Malappuram district took to the streets demanding transportation to go home.

On May 10, agitated labourers staged a rebellion near Oruvathil Kotta in Thiruvananthapuram. Two policemen were injured in this incident.

Home of the migrants

Migrants in Kerala leaving for their homestate on the Shramik train
Migrants in Kerala leaving for their homestate on the Shramik train

Kerala is home to nearly 35 lakh migrant workers, according to a 2018 report by the state government. Another study - by Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation - found that the number increases by 2.35 lakh every year.

The Railways has operated 800 Shramik Special trains since May 1, ferrying home 10 lakh migrant workers who were stranded in various parts of the country due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, officials said on Thursday.

On Monday, a statement issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the Railways will now run 100 Shramik Specials every day to facilitate faster movement of stranded workers.

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