Patna: While the Bihar government has been working to bring back its migrant labourers stranded across the country, a group of 240 workers, hailing from Khagaria in Munger division, headed out to Telangana Thursday.
The labourers took the train that reached Patna from Telangana Thursday and are to work in rice mills in the southern state.
“These labourers had come home during Holi (10 March) and were unable to go back because of the Covid-19 situation. The Telangana government had been contacting us to facilitate their return for the past 25 days,” Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi told ThePrint.
“The Khagaria workers were also willing to return because they are paid Rs 1,200 a day there, which is much higher than what a worker gets in Bihar (Rs 300 per day).”
He further said that the state government could not facilitate their return due to lockdown. “But now that the trains have re-started, we brought the willing labourers to Patna to board the train to Telangana,” he added.
Modi further said that several states want Bihari migrant labour to stay.
“The Karnataka government recently handed cash and food incentives to Bihari migrant labourers to ensure they do not leave,” he said. “Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had telephoned Bihar CM Nitish Kumar stating that he would take care of Bihari labourers there as the state relied heavily on them for harvesting. So far, not a single train has come from Punjab.”
He also said that a large section of the population bracketed as migrant labour has actually permanently shifted to the places they work.
“The majority of Bihari migrant labourers in Delhi are permanently settled there and would not like to return,” Modi said. “In Mumbai, Bihari migrant labour consists of 30 per cent of the work force. The remaining 70 per cent is from UP. It is a different matter that all of them are called bhaiyas and presumed to be Biharis.
No trains from Mumbai and Delhi yet
While trains from other locations have started arriving in Bihar, there have been none from Delhi and Mumbai so far. According to the Garun App launched by the state government, through which it is paying Rs 1,000 to bank accounts of stranded migrant labourers, over 5.5 lakh such workers have registered from Delhi and 2.5 lakh in Maharashtra.
Bihar government officials say that registration has been opened from these places and that they are trying to determine the number of labourers wanting to return from these places.
“The solution is not that simple. Delhi and Mumbai come under the red zone and we have to be careful. Even the Government of India does not want every migrant labourer to come home,” said Vyasji, a former chairman of the Bihar Disaster Management Authority.
“The offer is for persons who were on seasonal work and got stranded, There are migrant labourers who have permanently shifted with families. In Ludhiana, there are about 2.5 lakh permanent dwellers from Bihar.”
Vyasji believes that once the lockdown ends, fewer Bihari labourers will want to come home. “As factories begin to open, the numbers wanting to come home will decrease,” he said. “The Railways is running special trains at a loss because of the restricted passengers. We also do not know how any coaches they will make available.”