The workers, all natives of Bihar, had tried to book buses from a travel operator in the region at Rs 7,500 per head, to travel back.

Migrant workers with masks stand in a groupImage Courtesy - Mathrubhumi
news Migrant workers Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 08:09

In a desperate bid to return home amid the lockdown, migrant workers in Kerala have been using up their life savings to arrange transportation facilities on their own, to return home. On Monday, hundreds of such migrant workers in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district took to the streets after they were denied permission to book a bus and travel to their hometowns. 

The workers, all natives of Bihar, had tried to book buses from a travel operator in the region at Rs 7,500 per head, to travel back home. Denied permission by the Pathanamthitta district administration, the workers assembled in front of a CPI(M) office in the area, near the labour camps at Kannankara.

The video of the incident, aired by Malayalam news channels, showed police officials, including Pathanamthitta district police chief KG Simon, forcing workers to get back inside their camps. 

Talking to media persons, the workers said that they want permission to go home and can no longer stay in Kerala with no money to even buy food. 

“Though we had arranged a bus, they (officials) are not allowing us to go...We don’t have money, we arranged it from our homes, but still they are not letting us go,” one worker told Media One. 

He alleged that police officials beat them with batons and make them go inside whenever they raise these issues. 

“They say they are taking care of us, but no one is coming to check on us. There are people who are sick here. No one is looking at what we are doing here, it is like we are being ridiculed,” said the worker.

Another worker, speaking to Manorama News, said, “..sir is not giving permission. We are from Bihar. We don’t have money, even to feed ourselves. It is better now that we walk home. We are living with around 200 people living in these houses (camps).”

The workers also alleged that the food provided by the local body administration was inadequate.

The Pathanamthitta police arrested the bus operator who allegedly ‘abetted’ the workers to assemble, violating lockdown regulations. Police told TNM that though the workers had arranged a bus, they had not paid money yet. 

The bus operators — R Vijayakumar and Shahul Hamid — were arrested under Indian Penal Code Sections 109 (Punishment of abetment), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), Section 118 (e) (Acts causing danger to public or failure in public safety) of the Kerala Police Act and Sections of Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020.

Meanwhile, officials of Pathanamthitta municipality denied allegations raised by the workers that they are not being provided adequate food. 

“We had distributed food kits to the people to cook. For those who live alone or with no facility to cook, we have been providing food from community kitchens. Their basic demand is to go home, there are no problems related with food,” Municipality Vice-Chairman Sageer A told TNM.

Meanwhile, an official from the taluk in the region told the media that trains will be arranged to Bihar and West Bengal in the coming days. 

Read: Why we haven't seen an exodus of migrant workers on foot from Kerala

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