TN govt’s laxity forces migrants to take to the streets or hit the road

While some workers protest the state's lackadaisical attitude, others begin an arduous journey by foot

Migrant workers feel that it's better to die walking rather than to stay without wages for days. Photo: PTI (representational)

The Tamil Nadu government seems to be in no hurry to transport migrant labourers stranded in the State. Over the last few days, migrants stuck in their workplaces have either turned violent or started walking all the way back to their homes.

Managing to contain the spread of COVID-19, Tirupur, a textile hub in South India, took adequate measures for its migrant workers. But the district is now witnessing a dozen protests every day.

On May 7, as many as 300 migrants, working in new Tirupur locality — a cluster of around 100 small and medium garment and textile factories —  gathered on the Coimbatore-Salem National Highway. Due to little vehicular movement, the angry protesters took waste tyres along the road and burnt them.

The same day, migrant workers stranded in Chennai’s Tambaram threw stones at police personnel who had tried to stop them from staging the protest. That night, around 1,000 migrant workers thronged the Coimbatore railway station, demanding transportation to their hometowns.

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On May 8, as many as 200 migrant workers thronged the Tirupur railway station with the same demand.

“It’s better to die walking rather than to stay without wages for days together. The situation is becoming worse every day. We don’t want to waste time. We want to see our families living kilometres away,” a migrant worker from Odisha, who was stranded in Coimbatore said.

Another group migrants from Jharkhand, working at a private company in Chennai’s Ambattur Industrial Estate began their arduous journey by foot to the state that is over 1,600 km far. “We waited to get our wages and we fought with our bosses. But, they did not pay heed to it,” said a migrant worker from Ranchi.

“We thought at least the government would arrange a transport facility for us. But it seems to be in no mood to send us back. So, we would rather die walking instead of living on charity.” However, all the workers were stopped near Perungalathur, on the outskirts of Chennai.

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An IAS officer, who is engaged in facilitating the transport of migrants, told The Federal their first priority was to send the stranded people, who had dire necessity to visit their hometowns and those who are willing to do so.

“Only the people who are under the government’s care are considered as the stranded persons. Those staying at their workplaces will not be considered as such and they will have to wait until the government decides,” the IAS officer said.

On May 8, the first Shramik Special train from Coimbatore left for Bihar with about 1,140 stranded migrant workers. According to Collector K Rajamani, there are around 22,000 migrant labourers under the government’s care in Coimbatore.

“Around 1,140 workers were sent to Bihar on the special train on May 8 evening, while 1,140 more people will be sent to the state on a special train on May 9 morning,” he said. Further, a batch of 1,140 migrant workers each will be sent to Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Assam in the coming days, Rajamani added.

He said they were only prioritising the stranded migrant workers under the government’s care and would look into the issue of other migrant workers later, if needed.

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