While the families of migrant workers say they were misguided, authorities claim that the workers boarded the train of their own volition.

Madhya Pradesh-bound migrant families from Bengaluru stranded in Gorakhpur
news Migrant worker Friday, June 19, 2020 - 20:05

Around 30 men, women and children native to multiple districts in Madhya Pradesh, who boarded a Shramik train from Bengaluru on June 16, were left stranded in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh on Friday morning.

Families of the migrant workers and social activists said that they had been misled by state government authorities while boarding the train; however, officials claimed that the migrant workers ‘knowingly boarded the trains’ and said that they would manage their way (to their destination).

Isha Pant IPS, the nodal officer i-charge of overseeing the return of migrant labourers from Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, denied that the migrant workers had been misled. 

“It was very clear that the train won't go via Madhya Pradesh. They (the migrant workers) thought that since the train is going to UP, they will manage to go to MP. So this has happened in the past as well, when people from Chhattisgarh wanted to board trains to Madhya Pradesh saying that they will manage the remaining part of the journey. So this is what must have happened,” the officer told TNM. 

The IPS officer added that she came to know about the latest incident through activists and has subsequently informed her counterpart in Madhya Pradesh about this.

She said, “I have already spoken to the Madhya Pradesh government nodal officer and he is trying to get something done.”

Two persons, among those stranded in Gorakhpur, said that they were told by the police in Palace Grounds, Bengaluru where they were staying, that they can deboard the train at Bhopal.

As widely reported, this is not the first time that the issue of the return of migrant workers from Karnataka has run into difficulties. The Karnataka High Court too has pulled up the state government over its actions on the matter.

Read: ‘Exercise to exclude migrants’: HC slams Karnataka govt for SMS fiasco

Sonu Saket, a migrant worker, said that he and others had filled a form to board a train to Madhya Pradesh. He was then told to board the train which ultimately left them stranded in Gorakhpur. 

“But we got to know that the train won’t go to Bhopal only after it had crossed Andhra Pradesh. Now, we don’t have anybody to help us. Authorities here are telling us to get out of the station and we have not had any food since last night,” he said.

Sonu and others, including women and children, are now forced to find ways to arrange the homeward journey of more than 350 km on their own.

Ram Lal, coordinator of one of the stranded migrant workers’ groups, said 11 of the 30-odd persons are now arranging a private bus to take them to Allahabad. 

“It will cost us around Rs 7,000 to reach there and then, we will again have to figure out a way to go home. 11 of us are from the districts of Rewa, Satna and Sidhi,” Ram Lal told TNM.

He added that the other group had managed to get a train at 5 pm.

TNM also accessed communication between the state government and the Railways, which stated that the train, which left from Mysuru and went via Bengaluru, was not slated to go via Madhya Pradesh at all.

The issue came to light when some activists of the NGO Swaraj Abhiyan in Bengaluru got distress calls from migrant workers. 

The stranded workers with whom TNM spoke said that they have divided themselves into two groups and are arranging their own travel home.

R Kaleem Ullah of Swaraj Abhiyan said, “The state government cannot wash their hands off their responsibility. It is only the police department which have been forced to tackle the situation single-handedly while other departments, like Labour and the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike), relied fully on social workers to manage the situation leading to distress and confusion.”

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