Migrant workers start leaving Amritsar in a trickle, for now
With covid-19 curbs affecting livelihood of majority of people in Punjab, bringing back bitter memories of last year when a sizeable period passed in lockdown, migrant labourers have started returning to their home towns and villages in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states by train. On Sunday, 50 migrant labourers, with their luggage, were seen at Amritsar Railway Station to board trains bound for UP and Bihar. They were carrying bags.
People working as vendors, factory workers, construction workers and those employed with in hotels and restaurants have been hit. Most of them are migrant labourers and don’t have houses.
“We have been left jobless due to covid-19 restrictions and have chosen to return home, instead of staying here. We will not return till normalcy returns,” one of them said; this was the common refrain.
Manoj Kumar, of Chandoli village, in Banaras district of Uttar Pradesh (UP), said, “I have been living here for the past 15 years and work in a factory manufacturing fans in Amritsar. The unit has been non-operational for the last few days. What will I do here if the factory is lying defunct? I have decided to go back with five more people accompanying me.” He added, “The current lockdown has affected the factory owner severely. He has expressed inability to accommodate us anymore.”
Another migrant Vinay Kumar, said, “I am a daily wager and have no work to do amid lockdown. I am going back home the second time due to lockdown as we had no work.”
Workers who have not stepped out to go to their homes, also fear that the lockdown will be prolonged and that they will lose their source of livelihood and their housing.
“Migrant labourers have started going home. The lockdown and night curfew have hit small businesses run by migrant and factories and factories have cut jobs. Unemployed workers are unable to pay rent. So, a section of the labourers has decided to go back home,” said Mahesh Verma, leader of migrant labourers, and president of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Parwasi Wing.
He added, “Travelling home is not affordable by everybody. Only those who have some money are going. A sizeable number of migrant workers are vendors, who start their work after 5pm. How can they run their livelihood in the new lockdown timings?”
Notably, tourism, restaurants, hospitality, textile, handicraft, fan manufacturing, medicines, rice sheller etc are main fields of industries in Amritsar.
Kamal Dalmia, chairman, Focal Point Industries Association, Amritsar, who runs a textile unit, said, “Most factory owners have reduced their shift to eight hours. New orders are rare and payment from customers is blocked. No factory owner can afford manufacturing of unsold goods for much time. Temporary workers are being asked to go for leave for 20 days or more.”
3 buses from Barnala
move to native states
BARNALA Over a hundred migrant workers moved to their native states amid rumours of complete lockdown due to covid-19 and Ramadan by hiring special private buses from Barnala district on Sunday. Those going back claimed that they will return for work after a short period. Wheat crop harvest season has almost ended and paddy transplantation will start in the month of June in Punjab.
The driver of the private bus, who did not want to be named, said the migrants had hired three buses, which would drop them at Purnia from Barnala and Sangrur districts.
Mohammed Jaladeen, of Purnia district of Bihar, who boarded the bus from Dhanaula town, said, “We are going home for Ramadan. I want to celebrate the festival with family members. However, we will come back again for work,” he added.