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Migrants from Himachal, Jammu, Odisha stuck in TN, desperately seek a way out

Congress' barbs over migrant workers only partly justified, but ...

Even as a couple of Shramik specials have left Tamil Nadu carrying about 14,000 migrant workers and others to states like Jharkhand, Bihar, there still remains a vast population who want to be with their families back home. The non-stop special trains pass many cities on their way, where thousands more pine for a way out.

These are migrant workers from Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Odisha and others part of India.

Unable to stay put without money to buy vegetables and other essentials many out of desperation have decided to walk to their home states with a hope of getting a lift in some trucks.

"We wanted to go back to Himachal Pradesh, our native. There are 11 of us from Himachal Pradesh. We want to be with our family at this hour of crisis," P.Bunty, a migrant worker, told IANS over phone from Salem.

According to him, some trains carrying migrant workers pass through Salem but do not stop here.

"We are hoping that the Tamil Nadu government would do something to help us," he added.

A large number of workers from L&W construction site near Chennai have left by foot for Bihar a couple of days back and they have been put up in a Mandapam by the police near here.

"The police are saying arrangements will be made to send us back by train. We are hoping we will reach home soon. It is too early to say whether I will come back here. First, one has to see whether there is work and then decide on coming back," a migrant worker not wanting to be identified told IANS in Chennai.

He said back home family members are facing difficulty and hence he would like to be there and help out.

Around 90 workers from Bihar left in three buses couple of days back from L&W site.

"We are now near Odisha. There are some people in Chennai and some have decided to walk it down," a migrant worker in one of the buses told IANS.

According to Habib another migrant worker from Bihar working at L&W site said he was not able to afford the bus fare and hence decided to stay back.

Though some term them as guest workers, the way they are being held up against their wishes makes one feel it is as if they are bonded labour.

The one common question from the migrant workers to whom IANS spoke to was -- What is that you can do for us to go back home. It may initially sound rude, but from their perspective they are right to be skeptical.

Speaking to IANS lawyer and activist Gayathri Khandhadai said the issues of migrant workers should be looked at from their perspective.

"When they hear the troubles faced by the family back home, it is nothing but natural for the workers wanting to go back and be with the family. This is human nature. The government should facilitate their going back first rather than trying to hold them back," Khandhadai said.

"While they are provided with rations like rice, pulses, oil and wheat flour, they have to buy vegetables for which they need money," she said.

She said the living conditions of the migrant workers were not great and the drawbacks were not largely seen as during normal working days they come back to their shelter to sleep.

But during the lockdown the cramped shelters are one of the major problems.

In most of the places, the migrant workers come out and protest and would disperse on hearing the assurance from district police officials that they would be sent back.

However, in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, two police officials were injured when some agitating workers at the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd refused to leave the spot and entered into an argument with the police.

To a query whether they would come back after going home the cryptic answer was: "First let us go home."