Kochi: One of the Keralite bus drivers stranded in West Bengal due to COVID-induced lockdown died on Wednesday.
K P Najeeb, 46, of Venmenad, Pavaratty, in Thrissur district, died after he collapsed on Wednesday evening at Alipur near West Benga-Assam border. He was the driver of 'Jayguru' bus from Muthuvara.
Hundreds of Keralites – drivers and cleaners of buses who carried migrant workers from Kerala to their home states, majorly West Bengal and Assam – has been stranded in these states due to the lockdown for over a month.
According to reports, around 400 buses from Kerala that ferried migrant labourers have been stranded in West Bengal and Assam. Uncertainty continues over the return trip of these buses and over a thousand employees are in distress.
The death of one of their own have increased their concerns.
"We are really concerned," said Kochi native Sangeeth Kumar and Kollam native Shafeeq, who have been staying at the Domkal town in Murshidabad district of West Bengal.
The buses have also suffered damages after lying idle for long. The employees pointed out that the state government's assurance to get the permit of buses renewed was not helping them to return.
The buses were deployed to transport migrant workers from Perumbavoor to Assam and West Bengal to vote in the Assembly polls. But the buses have been stuck in these states due to the lockdown. The buses are from various parts of Kerala.
The migrant workers were brought through agents. The buses were supposed to return with workers after voting but this wait became a never-ending one after the workers developed cold feet because of the alarming pandemic situation across the country.
With the lockdown imposed, the agents made the payment for the one-way trip. Now, the only contact with them is over phone.
The bus employees would not be able to return until the lockdown is lifted. The workers are also refusing to come back in the wake of the COVID spread. In such a scenario, travelling thousands of kilometres without passengers would cause huge financial loss. Just the fuel expenses would be Rs 50,000, while the toll would come up to Rs 12,000. Apart from this, the checking at each check-post implies an increased financial burden.