Jignesh Mevani writes to Gujarat C.M. for steps to send migrants home

Published : May 20, 2020 19:44 IST

Police detain migrant workers following a protest against the denial of transport for them to travel to their home towns in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and other States, in Ahmedabad on May 18. Photo: SAM PANTHAKY/AFP

The migrant crisis in Gujarat is showing signs of escalating into a human rights issue. There is first-hand information that lakhs of migrants are stranded in the State following the collapse of the transport arrangements to take them to their home towns in other States. A recent report by non-government organisations and social workers detailed the plight of approximately 70,000 migrant workers “being held captive” in the Mora and Hazira industrial belt near Surat because those industries would not be able to restart without them.

The workers who mainly belong to Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha work as contract labour linked to highly reputed companies that include several oil and natural gas giants. Organisations such as the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal (GSM) have been trying to help but to no avail. According to Jignesh Mevani, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Gujarat, several workers have not received food or wages in the period of the lockdown. Even worse is that some have not received wages for work done before the lockdown. Now they are desperate to return to their homes.

Mevani said industries were running at a low capacity and the few workers working there during the lockdown received only lunch. “The panchayat support has been woefully inadequate. Some workers report that they received only ten days of ration during the lockdown which has extended for over 50 days. Many of the workers have been threatened by their landlords that they will be evicted,” he said.

In a statement to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, he said: “It seems that all these workers are caged and confined so that their cheap labour can be used by the companies, the state of Gujarat is in connivance with. I would urge you to take immediate action to send these workers back home and take care of their food and medical needs until they are in our State. We have a responsibility to take care of them and facilitate their travel during this very difficult lockdown.”

The statement said: “The administration has stalled the returning process for over 10 days. In addition to that workers are saying that they are being charged Rs.700 per head to go back home. Instead of ensuring their timely payment of wages and adequate ration, we have been responsible for keeping them poor, hungry and desperate to go home. A worker said to us that he would rather have “namak and roti” with his parents than suffer here. The workers have been very reluctant and scared to share their stories with us. I request you to ensure that these cases are dealt with utmost empathy and sensitivity. Kindly ensure that the workers of Hazira, Mora, Ahmedabad and Vadodara do not have to endure any more physical and mental abuse. Let us take prompt action and treat them with respect and dignity.”