Hundreds of migrant workers living in and around Bengaluru gathered at Bangalore Palace Grounds in the city’s Vasanth Nagar on Friday after they received news that a train to Assam had been scheduled for that evening. However, lack of arrangements and proper facilities, and an absence of officials from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) at the mustering centre, led to massive chaos.
Many migrant workers began gathering as early as 7 am and five hours later, they were left waiting and hungry, as no registration process had begun. TNM spoke to Bengaluru resident Rosemary Vishwanath, who was at the spot, volunteering and coordinating with the migrants and making hectic phone calls to officials seeking clarity.
"After a gap of six days, a train to Assam was finally announced,” Rosemary tells TNM over the phone. “The BBMP made no arrangements at this centre and now there are around 3,000 migrant workers here but no officials, except for the police. One Shramik train can take around 1,600 passengers at a time and the others waiting have to stay here till another train is arranged. But they have been called here without arranging for a place for them to stay. The place, which was supposed to have computers and medical checkups conducted, is in tatters because it is being refurbished by the owner. There are no chairs, no tables,” she added.
Hundreds of workers reached Bangalore Palace grounds in Vasanth Nagar hoping to register and board the train for Assam that leaves in the evening. However, they were left waiting for hours, since no arrangements were made following miscommunication between officials. pic.twitter.com/2pEFMLYmmy— Sanyukta (@dramadhikari) June 12, 2020
When citizens present there tried to reach out to the BBMP Commissioner BH Anil Kumar, Rosemary said he was not aware of the migrant workers gathering at Palace Grounds.
Usually, when migrant workers are informed of a train via SMS (if they sign up on the Seva Sindhu app) or via word of mouth, they are instructed to gather at a particular meeting point, where they are asked to fill out a form, after which a medical check-up is conducted. It is only after these procedures that they are taken to the train station via buses. However, by 12.30 pm on Friday, there was no nodal officer present at the spot to carry out the process.
Oli-ur-Rahman Lashkar, a migrant worker, who works at a garment factory in Bengaluru, said that he and many others reached the spot at 7 am.
"We came 7 am to the grounds. At 12.30 pm, we were given a glass of water, one slice of bread and an egg. We ate that and we are waiting. But we do not know what is happening or when we are supposed to board the train... There are many of us who want to go back home to Assam. There has been no work for the past 2 months. We just want to go home. Please send some help," 33-year-old Rahman said, while waiting at the grounds to sign up for a train to go home to Silchar.
Rosemary said that around 600 people went to Palace Grounds, since that is one of the mustering points for migrant workers. Those 600 people were brought to Bangalore Palace. “It is going to rain soon. There is no place to accommodate all these people here. The palace itself is undergoing construction. Where are these people going to stay?” Rosemary questioned.
Inside Bangalore Palace where work is on
Speaking to TNM, Bengaluru Deputy Commissioner of Police (Administration) Nisha James said that BBMP Commissioner (West) had been informed of the trains and that migrant workers have been instructed to assemble at Bangalore Palace, but no arrangements were made.
“BBMP has not made any arrangements even though Joint Commissioner West was informed well in time yesterday (Thursday) to make the necessary arrangements. Since this morning (Friday), he has not been available on the phone. The matter has been escalated to BBMP Commissioner as well as Manjunath Prasad (nodal officer for railways) who is in charge of the overall outgoing migrant movement,” Nisha James told TNM.
A train has been arranged for Friday, she added, and that a second train will be arranged for the remaining workers for whom arrangements will have to be made at the same spot by the BBMP.
TNM reached out to BBMP Joint Commissioner (West) N Chidananda, who said, “There was some confusion yesterday. The entire area is known as Palace Grounds. There are three locations in Palace Ground - Tripura Vasini, Krishna Vihari and Tennis Pavilion. Everytime they used to tell us Palace Ground, we do not know exactly where on Palace Grounds. There are three locations, and of these, we made arrangements at two locations. We did not have any idea about the third location. We were informed only this morning. Now arrangements have been made.”