The national lockdown due to the Corona crisis has severely affected migrant workers not only in metros like Bangalore but all across the country. With no work, money to afford food, many have been walking thousands of kilometres to get back home. While there have been reports of many people being injured from accidents, some have even lost their lives. The central government has, after many such incidents and criticism from all around, started the ‘Shramik special’ trains for migrant workers.
Although the central government has assured that it will bear 85 % of the cost of train tickets, reports are coming in from many parts of the state that the migrant workers themselves are paying for the tickets. In Karnataka, trains were set to depart from Bangalore, however, due to some reasons, these were cancelled. This was followed by a severe backlash from labour organisations, which led to the Government finally agreeing to start the train services.
Around 400 migrant workers at Malpe port were stuck in a similar situation. As it is the fishing season right now, the employers were reluctant to let the migrants return. Their native State governments have also not shown any interest in getting them back home, as a result of which these workers were stuck at the port. Only after some social workers contacted the Opposition leader in Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, arrangements were made for these workers to get back home to Andhra.
However, the current situation is such that, many migrant workers are stuck in the many districts outside Bangalore. Many workers are even/still unaware of the situation and are just waiting in despair to find some work.
Among these, workers from Andhra Pradesh were six workers from Uttar Pradesh, who are reported to be missing, by social workers. When enquired among others, it has been found that these workers have started walking back home and the social workers have revealed that contact has not been possible with the migrant workers.
Due to the lack of right information, it is estimated that around 263 migrants from Jharkand are still stuck in various parts of Udupi district. Although a Shramik train destined to Jharkand’s Hatia, starting from Mangalore, via Udupi was started on May 10th, the workers were not informed about this. This dire situation is due to the fact that Karnataka government focus is only on Bangalore.
According to these migrant workers, employers often just use them as machines. In such a situation, it is the responsibility of the local administration to help the migrant workers on humanitarian grounds.
Jharkhand, a state with majority Adivasi population has people who have migrated to various parts of the country in search of work. The Jharkhand State Govt has been doing all efforts in getting back the people to their homes. Chief Minister Hemanth Soren has requested the Central Govt that the cost of the Shramik special trains to get these workers back has to be borne by the Central Govt.
Most local politicians and leaders are ignorant towards the problems faced by the migrants since they don’t have a vote here in Karnataka.
Only 168 out of the 263 migrant workers from Jharkhand who are left behind in Udupi have registered their names officially. Most others are unaware of what to do and are awaiting help from someone. The same is the case of workers in Manipal, who are left with no information about what is going on.
All eyes and hopes are now on the local district administration of Udupi. These people have worked there for years and are now in need of support to survive. The social workers on the ground are of the opinion that if the officials arrange for these workers to reach Bangalore, they would be able to board the Bangalore – Hatia express and get home.
Similar reports are coming from Bellary, KGF, Kumta and Bijapur of migrants from UP, Bihar, Jharkahnd and West Bengal stuck without food or any bus or train transport to go to their states. There is also no arrangement to come to Bangalore.
The article was first published in www.naanugauri.com. It is translated into English by Sumana Narayana.