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Stranded in Tripura due to lockdown, migrant workers from Bihar opt to stay back

Written by Debraj Deb
| Agartala |

Updated: May 12, 2020 6:01:55 pm

Migrant labourers from Bihar say they fear being unemployed back home (Express Photo: Debraj Deb)

While the state government is making arrangements to send stranded migrant workers to their native places amid a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, several labourers in Tripura have opted to stay back.

A large group of migrants from Bihar, who came to work as loaders here years back, said they are getting some work, albeit less, as lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted. They want to stay back till the pandemic is resolved. Back home, they fear being unemployed.

Babloo Kumar Yadav, a labour sardaar working with several trading concerns of Agartala as a loader for last 20 years,  said he faced some problems of work due to lockdown but some government assistance was given. Hailing from Khagadiya district of Bihar, Babloo said he prefers to stay back in the state.

“If we keep getting work, we shall stay back. 14-15 of us stay together at an accommodation provided by our employers. We are wearing masks, face covers and are maintaining social distancing. But we shall prefer to stay back till everything is alright about the coronavirus outbreak”, Babloo told indianexpress.com.

He said returning home at Bihar would be futile since coronavirus outbreak is worsening there and there would be next to no work back home. “Some of us were concerned about many coronavirus patients found among BSF jawans in Tripura. But we are safe till now and I feel it is safer to stay in Tripura till everything is alright. If we keep getting work like now, we don’t want to return right away”, he said.

Vyas Yadav, another loader from Bihar, said he came three years back, looking for work. He earned between Rs. 400-500 on usual workdays but since lockdown as imposed on March 25, his loading-unloading and carrying work doesn’t fetch him more than Rs. 200 a day. His landlord has waived his monthly rent of Rs. 2,000 till situation improves as well.

So, Vyas is keeping fingers crossed for fast resolution of the pandemic and wants to stay back to work till then.

“I am earning less but this is better than nothing. What’s there to do back home? At least some work is available here. We are praying that coronavirus outbreak is resolved soon and we can get back to our normal lives”, he said.

Nineteen year old Sunny Dayal from Bhagalpur of Bihar, 62 year old Santosh Yadav and many others who work at Kaman Chowuhani and Maharajganj Bazaar of Agartala as traditional goods carriers, spoke in a similar tune. “If we get work, we shall stay. We don’t want to go back right away, risking exposing ourselves to the virus on train or anywhere on the way”, they said.

Most of these porters are unaware of the precautions and guidelines put in place by Indian Railways for transporting migrant workers in the Shramik special trains including compulsory health check-ups to make sure they aren’t affected or symptomatic.

Tapas Dey, Manager of Tirthamayee Traders Private Limited, is one of the few businessmen at Maharajganj, who employs these workers to carry their goods for them. “We are providing them masks, hand wash and are keeping them at accommodations large enough to maintain social distancing. We have also offered them to leave if they want but they said they want to work for the time being,” he said.

Gopal Chandra Saha, another trader from Kaman Chwmuhani, said very few customers are coming these days and so, sale is low, meaning less porters and carriers are required.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb told earlier this month that his government has arranged train bookings to send back 33,000 migrant workers currently living in Tripura to their respective states. The move would cost Rs. 2.50 crore to the state exchequer which would be borne from the CM relief fund, he informed.

On the other hand, 37,721 people stranded elsewhere in the country, have registered with the state government’s COVID-19 helpline and web portal. They include 12,782 from Karnataka, 8,129 from Tamil Nadu, 6,174 from West Bengal. 1,470 from Assam and 1,382 people stuck at Telengana.

The first train with passengers from Karnataka is scheduled to reach Agartala tonight while one from Tamil Nadu is scheduled to reach on May 15.

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