Special trains resume from Bengaluru ferrying over 3500 migrant workers

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Bengaluru, May 8 (PTI) After a three-day stoppage,the Shramik special train services resumed on Friday ferrying over 3,500 migrant labourers stranded in Bengaluru to their home states.

The resumption of train services from the state led to a rush among migrant labourers in Mangaluru too with hundreds of workers staging a protest in front of the central railway station there demanding that they be sent home.

Three trains -- two bound for Lucknow, capital city of Uttar Pradesh, and one for Danapur in Bihar, commenced their journey today,the South Western Railways (SWR) said.

'Today, the Shramik Special to Lucknow departed at 4.25 pm from Chikkabanavara station with 1,200 passengers on board, second one left Malur at 5.45 pm carrying 1,200 adults and seven children to Danapur (Bihar) and the third train to Lucknow departed from Malur at 7.55 pm with 1,198 passengers on board,' the SWR said in a statement.

The SWR had run eight train services for migrant workers before abruptly stopping it on Tuesday on the direction of the State government.

The direction came after the builders called on Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa highlighting their plight that their projects would come to a halt if the migrant labourers were allowed to go back home.

After coming under sharp criticism, the government finally agreed to operate the Shramik special trains to the northern and eastern states but preferred seeking the consent of the states where these migrant labourers belong to.

According to Revenue Minister R Ashoka, whose department is overseeing the movement of migrant labourers, consent was sought from 11 states out of which six have not yet responded.

'We have booked 16 trains from Bengaluru from May 8 to May 15 to send migrant workers to 11 states but so far only five states have given us permission while other six have not given their consent,' Ashoka told reporters in Bengaluru.

According to the minister, states which have not given permission to run trains ferrying migrant workers are Jharkhand, Manipur, Tripura, Rajasthan, Odisha and Gujarat.

'But, we have booked trains to these states (which have not given approval).So there is no basis behind the allegation that we are forcibly holding back the labourers,' Ashoka said.

Despite an assurance that the government was keen to send the labourers back to their state, fear persisted among the labourers in the State that they may not be allowed to go back to their home states.

Hundreds of migrant labourers at a construction work site in Bengaluru claimed that they are being kept confined at the place and appealed to the government to send them back to their native places.

The workers also alleged the living conditions were difficult at the site in Anchepalya on Tumakuru Road where a huge township is coming up and flagged health concerns besides lamenting that they have not been paid wages since the coronavirus lockdown began.

'We are 1,800 workers here.We are living in extreme difficult conditions.

We have to stay inside rooms,' said Kumar Mandal from Bokaro in Jharkhand, appealing for arrangements to send them back.

The migrant labourers made a video on their plight showing the deployment of police and them being 'confined' at the construction site.

Mandal made an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa to let them go home.

'I urge Modiji and the Chief Minister here to let us go home at the earliest,' he said.

The Jharkhand worker said no health check-up was being conducted for those at the site.

Another labourer claimed none of the workers have been given any cash ever since the lockdown was enforced in March.

'We don't have cash.The builder has confined us here and is not letting anyone go out.

Thankfully he is giving us food but that alone is not sufficient.We want to go back home,' the labourer said.

The news about the resumption of train services from the state led to a rush among migrant labourers in Mangaluru too.

Hundreds of migrant workers belonging to northern states staged a protest in front of the Mangaluru central railway station demanding that arrangements be made for them to return to home towns.

The crowding of workers at the railway station is learnt to be prompted by a social media post which went viral giving false information that free special trains have been arranged for workers, sources said.

More than 700 workers residing at Surathkal, Nanthoor, Kulur and Derebail near here reached the station by foot.

The workers, mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand stayed put at the station and refused to disperse, despite appeals by police, who rushed to the spot, to leave.

Police quoted the migrants as saying that they were stuck in the city without jobs, money and adequate food and that they were even willing to walk to their home states if the special trains were not operated immediately.

The workers, who initially refused to disperse, went away only after city police commissioner P S Harsha assured them that arrangements will be made for their travel back home within three days.PTI GMS BN WELCOME BN WELCOME