Indian Naval Ships, Jalashwa and Magar, headed to Male port in Maldives to bring back the citizens to Kochi while the migrant workers in Karnataka have been denied trains back to their home states. In an ironic approach of evacution, a total of 14 ships have been kept ready to bring stranded citizens from Gulf countries while at least 300 migrant labourers were seen walking home from Bengaluru, hours after the Karnataka government cancelled the trains arranged for them. Also Read - Lockdown Has Failed, PM Modi Must Say What Plan B is, Rahul Gandhi Fires Salvo
The state government cancelled all trains to ferry migrant workers from the state to their home states fearing labour crunch in various sectors, including real estate. Though the state government announced a Rs 1,610 crore relief package for the benefit of those in distress due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, at least 300 people were seen walking back to UP or Bihar from Bengaluru. A video that immediately went viral on Wednesday shows hundreds of workers walking on the stretch between Hebbal flyover and Devanhalli in the city, as Shramik Special trains got cancelled. Also Read - Prakash Raj Helps 44 Migrant Workers Reach Their Home, Says 'I am Not Done Yet'
In a picture tweeted by Krishna Byre Gowda, the Byatarayanapura MLA wrote, “I spoke with Chief Secretary, K’taka and urged him strongly to reconsider decision to cancel trains. They may be poor. But they are humans.They are not bonded labourers,Like Indians abroad want to come home, these ppl also want to & have a right to go to their home & their family (sic).” Also Read - Recent Lancet Study Puts Hydroxychloroquine's Role in Coronavirus Treatment in Question
He had even shared a video of their misery and captioned it, “State Govt cancels trains. Thousands of people,in groups of 10/20,are just WALKING TO UP. @CMofKarnataka this is inhuman.They are so disturbed as to walk home,pls don’t force. Some may die.Govt can not be the paid agent of real estate lobby.Send them well so they want to come back (sic).”
Later on Wednesday night, Gowda shared another video of the migrant workers and appealed to UP CM Yogi Adityanath for help. He captioned the video, “.@myogiadityanath #CMofUP, these people want to reach their home & family in UP. Our govt has cancelled trains under pressure from real estate lobby. So, thousands are walking to UP. They are from UP. But they are humans. Prevail on @CMofKarnataka to allow them to return (sic).”
Needless to say, the videos broke the Internet as Twitterati poured out their sadness over the migrant workers’ situation. Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, INS Jalashwa entered Male port in Maldives for evacuating Indian nationals as part of Samudra Setu programme and will leave for Kochi on Friday. As per reports, the ship will carry nearly 1,000 stranded Indian nationals in Maldives due to the global lockdown imposed to contain the deadly coronavirus as a vaccine for the same continues to be a myth.
While INS Shardul, attached to Southern Naval Command, has also been engaged to bring stranded citizens from Dubai, a total of 14 ships are on standby and waiting for the Central government directions. In an interview with IANS, a senior Indian Navy official shared, “They would start sailing once the government issues directions.” These ships have reportedly made arrangements for social distancing and sanitisation, as per the standard protocol laid out to deal with suspected COVID-19 affected people.
Recently, the central government had assured that migrant workers across the country won’t be charged for the journey back home amid lockdown. It stated that 85% of the cost will be borne by the railways while the remaining 15% will be paid by the state but hundreds of stranded migrants who boarded the special trains from Surat in Gujarat to Bihar, said that they had to instead pay more than the normal ticket prices. In an interview with NDTV, Nishant Rajput, a migrant labourer who boarded a special train on Monday said, “I am travelling from Surat to Patna. We have paid Rs 725 for the ticket, which costs Rs 710. We are paying Rs 25 extra. When we used to travel earlier, it costed us Rs 650. Now, when we have less money, we are paying more.”