Around 1,200 workers set off from Kalyan in Maharashtra to Danapur in Bihar on Tuesday. Out of these, at least 650 migrant labourers were living in Mumbai’s Shastri Nagar slum.
Their return home was arranged after the Bihar government put in place protocols and guidelines to receive thousands of migrant workers who were likely to take trains back to their native homes in the wake of the Centre’s order allowing their movement in a controlled manner amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
According to the Railway Ministry, it is the responsibility of the state governments to arrange transport for stranded people to reach railway stations. Similarly, at the destination station, the local administration will have to arrange for medical check-ups of passengers and their onward travel.
Migrant labourers from Shastri Nagar slum were taken to Kalyan in BEST buses and then they boarded a train bound for Bihar.
While happiness was clearly visible on their faces, it was shadowed by misery. These migrant workers who were not being paid any wages ever since the lockdown came into effect, were made to pay Rs 20 for the bus ticket and Rs 700 for the train ticket from Kalyan to Danapur in Bihar.
One of the labourers hailing from Patna in Bihar told India Today, “I had Rs 2,000 left with me, half of which has been spent on the ticket. I do not know how I am going to feed my kids back home.”
One of the labourers whose ticket price was paid by his fellow workers as he had no money, told India Today, “My meagre savings were exhausted because of my mother’s surgery, and ever since the lockdown has begun, I have not earned anything. I had to see my mother, who is with my wife and two kids in Bhagalpur. I could not have boarded the train had my brothers not paid on my behalf.”
Migrant workers onboard the train to Bihar told India Today, “We were not even given any food or water in the entire journey. We had to drink water from the taps of the toilets on the train.”
Migrant workers from Bihar boarding a train from Kalyan and their tickets photographed on May 6 (Picture Courtesy: Tanushree Pandey)
On Monday, upon being asked whether migrant workers were being charged for being ride home, Union Health Ministry’s Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said, “Be it the government of India or the Railways, we have not talked about charging from workers. 85 per cent of the transportation cost is being borne by the Railways, while states have to bear 15 per cent of the cost.”
More than 7,000 migrant workers have travelled to their home states from Maharashtra in Shramik Special trains since Saturday. The trains are operating from multiple locations in Maharashtra and are heading to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.