Guest workers stopped from walking to UP, Bihar; sent back to camps in Kerala

Guest workers stopped from walking to UP, Bihar; sent back to camps in Kerala
This aerial photo shows migrant workers and their family members carrying their belongings on a highway as they leave to go back to their villages during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown. Photo: AFP

Kannur: At least 100-odd migrant workers from Kerala, who set out to their home states in north India on foot, were stopped and sent back to their camps here by the police on Tuesday.

The workers complained that they were not getting adequate food at the camps and the government was not arranging any trains to help them return to their homes.

"We want to go back to our home states. Food was being served only once a day and we have no money. There is no work here," workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh rued.

Carrying water cans and some of their belongings, the workers started walking from nearby Vallapatnam, home to many plywood based industries, on their homeward journey when the Railway Police Force (RPF) personnel spotted them and informed the police.

Some labourers alleged that they were getting only 2 kg wheat for a family of four for a week and sought to know how they would be able to manage.

"We want to go home. We are even prepared to walk," Sushil Kumar, a worker said. The group of workers was stopped by the police, who pacified them. Later, the 'guest workers' were taken to their respective camps in three KSRTC buses.

Meanwhile, the district officials said the complaints made by the workers would be looked into.

Earlier, seventy-two migrant labourers from Kochi who tried to smuggle their way back to Rajasthan were arrested by the Tamil Nadu police at Kakkanahalli near Gudalur bordering Karnataka on Thursday. The group was later dispatched back to Kochi on buses arranged by the Tamil Nadu government.

Shramik trains

Guest workers stopped from walking to UP, Bihar; sent back to camps in Kerala

So far, over 33,000 migrant labourers have already left for their home trains from Kerala in special 'Shramik' trains. 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.

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

Guest workers stopped from walking to UP, Bihar; sent back to camps in Kerala

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

Guest workers stopped from walking to UP, Bihar; sent back to camps in Kerala
Migrants from Jaipur arrive by 'Shramik Special' train at Danapur junction, during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, in Patna, Saturday. Photo: PTI

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.

(With inputs from PTI)

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