As the 21-day countrywide lockdown enters the fifth day and thousands of migrant workers are still in the middle of nowhere in their quest to reach home, over a thousand migrant labourers hailing from various states on Sunday, in Kerala, hit the streets in Kottayam district and asked for transport facilities so that they can go back to their native places.
Since Sunday morning, around 11 am, hundreds of migrant labourers started gathering at Payipadu and raising slogans and demanded for arrangements of return to their native villages while the police showed restraint. Later the police in large numbers chased them away.
“Please go back. It’s not safe to be out together like this. We will make arrangements for you. I give you assurance… even if it’s your north Indian style of food, we will make arrangements. I am giving you my word. But we cannot send you back,” Kottayam police chief Jaidev G was quoted by NDTV as saying to the migrant workers( in Hindi).
Kottayam District Collector Sudhir Babu told the reporters, “Their primary demand was that they wanted to return to their homes after they saw buses were being arranged in other states. But that’s not possible. Whatever else they require, we shall provide. We have identified places where they can stay.”
CF Thomas the local MLA said that though there were no complaints of food or accommodation shortage, the migrants wanted to return home.
“Payipadu is a central place for migrant workers for long. Every day, they converge there and then move to their respective work locations. A series of meetings have taken place in the past few days. While almost 50 per cent of them have already returned, the rest who had made arragements to travel back home were unable to do so due to the nationwide lockdown and cancellation of all trains,” said Thomas.
“If a special train is arranged for their travel, we will facilitate their travel,” Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
This public upsurge has come at a time when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked authorities to treat migrant labourers, whom he addresses as ‘guests’, with respect.
Heartbreaking reports of desperate migrants workers facing the brunt of Coronavirus pandemic are coming in with each passing day, as in the nationwide lockdown they are left stranded without work, food or money and no means to reach their native villages, they are walking on foot to cover hundreds of kilometres after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, announced a “total lockdown” for 21 days to of arrest the spread of Coronavirus pandemic.
Now the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have arranged some buses for them and thousands of them have thronged the bus stands,trying to catch those overcrowded buses.