Migrants who paid ₹5,000 each for journey home to West Bengal stranded midwayUpdated: May 21, 2020 22:38 IST
Mohammed Rafiq, a migrant worker from West Bengal, sold his ring, mobile phone and his wife’s gold chain to raise money to return to his home town. He paid ₹8,000 in advance to an agent who promised to ferry him and his family to West Bengal for a total of ₹20,000. On Tuesday late night, when they were on their way in a bus with other migrant workers, a team of police personnel stopped them near Sarai village in New Palam Vihar and told them they can’t go further as the bus driver did not have a movement pass.
On Wednesday, the police booked four men and the bus driver for allegedly collecting money from migrant workers to ferry them to their home towns in West Bengal.
“I have not earned anything since the day lockdown was implemented. For weeks, I had been waiting for a way to get out of here and go to my home town. Recently, I got in touch with an agent who agreed to take us to our home in a bus for ₹5,000 per passenger. I immediately arranged the money,” Rafiq said.
Rafiq, who has a four-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, used to work as a daily wager in Gurugram.
As migrant workers, whose source of income has dried up due to the lockdown, are trying all possible ways to return to their home states, instances of them being cheated by agents promising them safe journeys have been on the rise. In most cases, agents, bus drivers or truck drivers, are charging them between ₹2,300 and ₹5,000 for ferrying them to their home states, without the requisite passes.
At least four such incidents have been reported in May, so far.
Mahbub ul Haq, one of the migrants was making his way back home on Tuesday, said, “There were around 27 persons, including women and children, from whom the men had taken ₹5,000 each for the journey. They informed us that they have all the necessary documents for inter-state travel. Around 11.30pm on Tuesday, we reached Sarai Allwardi village near the Dwarka Expressway, from where a bus picked us up. As soon as we began travelling, a team of police personnel intercepted the vehicle.”
“The police left us on the road and went away, despite there being women and children, as young as seven-month-olds, with us. They did not even arrest the bus driver. I had taken a loan of ₹25,000 at 10% interest in order to return to my home town in West Bengal. I have not earned anything since the lockdown started,” Mahbub said.
He said that they were stranded at the spot for the whole night, until the police reached the spot again around 6am on Wednesday.
However, the police denied the allegation and said that the migrant workers did not want to go to a relief camp. Mahbub and his family are currently staying at a construction site in K-block, South City-1.
Mool Chand, sub-inspector (SI), Bajghera police station, said, “As per the protocol, we had asked the migrant workers and their families to shift to a relief camp. However, they did not want to shift. The accused are yet to be arrested. We are investigating the matter.”
A case was registered under sections 118 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act at Bajghera police station on Wednesday.
Last week, the police had arrested two men in Ashok Vihar Phase-3, who had allegedly collected ₹1.25 lakh from 53 migrant workers for ferrying them to West Bengal. Similar incidents were reported at the Sector 14 and Sector 5 police stations earlier in the month.
Subhash Boken, spokesperson, city police, said, “Whenever such incidents have come to light, we have taken swift action and arrested the accused persons. The administration has been providing buses and trains for the migrant workers to return to their home states and towns.”