Demanding to go back to their families in their home states, hundreds of migrant workers in three Kerala districts, on Thursday, marched to police stations and panchayat offices. Though the workers peacefully dispersed in Kannur and Malappuram districts, in Ernakulam, the police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the gathering.
Migrant workers in Ernakulam, Kannur and Malappuram districts held demonstrations on Thursday morning and assembled in large numbers.
In Ernakulam district, about 500 migrant workers at Koothattukulam municipality assembled near the bus stand in the region around 7 am. Police officials, who tried to disperse the crowd, baton charged them.
In a video that has emerged on social media, a few people can be seen talking to migrant workers. Although the audio is indistinct, it seemed like local officials were trying to urge them to disperse. The video then cuts to police officials chasing the workers away using lathis (batons).
According to the Koothattukulam Station House Officer (SHO), the workers assembled to stage a protest march to the police station.
âWe received the prior information, went to the spot and blocked them before they reached the police station. They know that a section of workers in Ernakulam district - especially in Perumbavoor area - have left their hometowns in the Shramik trains. Though we tried to make them understand everyone will be sent back in the coming days, they were reluctant to disperse and were continuing to assemble,â Koothattukulam SHO KR Mohandas told TNM.
#WATCH Kerala: Police resort to mild lathicharge in Koothattukulam area of Ernakulam District to disperse migrant labourers who were protesting demanding they be sent back to their native places. pic.twitter.com/b3O1MMZyEdâ ANI (@ANI) May 7, 2020
Speaking to TNM, Roy Abraham, chairman of Koothattukulam Municipality (Ernakulam) said that more than 80% of the migrant workers in the municipality are from West Bengal. âThey saw other guest workers from Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand leaving in these special trains. They were wondering why they, too, could not leave and hence took out a protest march. They were demanding to make arrangement to send them home,â he said, adding that they are waiting for permission from the Centre to run trains to other states.
Protest in other districts
Meanwhile, in Malappuram district, about a hundred migrant workers assembled in front of Perumpadappu police station, raising similar demands. Perumpadappu SHO told TNM that the workers did not stage a protest, rather they were only enquiring when they will be able to board trains.
Another group of labourers at Veliyancode in Malappuram district staged a protest in front of the panchayat office, asking officials to take them back home. Speaking to TNM, panchayat president Suhara said that they went back to camps after officials assured that measures are taken for their return journey.
At Payyanur in Kannur district, too, migrant workers staged a protest in front of Payyanur police station. According to officials, the workers were asking why some trains, which were arranged for the workers from Bihar, cancelled by Kerala.
Since May 1, thousands of migrant workers in Kerala were sent to various states like Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand in 16 Shramik trains. But five scheduled trains to Bihar on May 4 had to be cancelled due to the delay in receiving no-objection certificate from the Bihar government. The services have now resumed.
According to officials of Payyannur police station, the workers who assembled in the station on Thursday were among the group of people whose trains were cancelled. âThey went back when we explained that it was a technical problem and they will be taken home in the coming days,â said Payyannur SHO AV John.
Other states like Karnataka and Telangana, too, have seen similar protests by migrant workers. In Karnataka, the state government has cancelled all Shramik trains after reportedly holding discussions with construction contractors. However, the trains will resume again following public outrage.
(With inputs from Shiba Kurian)