Homeless migrant labourers left in the lurch


Mohammed Harun, 58, a mason from Bihar who works in Shivajinagar walked 20 km on Monday night to reach the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC). “Others from Bihar working in the city came to BIEC a few days ago and were able to get a seat on a train,” he said. But to Mr. Harun’s misfortune, by the time he reached BIEC, the gates were closed. The authorities were not allowing any more migrants in as the centre was at maximum capacity.

Since Monday night, over 3,000 migrant labourers from across the city walked to BIEC but were not let in. Instead, they were made to board buses and dropped off to areas where they came from. Most of these buses were packed and no norms prescribed by the government — mandatory sanitisers and only 30 passengers per vehicle — were followed.

Unable to either house or stop the exodus of migrant labourers from the city to BIEC, the police on Tuesday decided to shut down the facility. “It was meant to be a temporary shelter for those walking to their home towns in north India. But now, people think they will be able to secure a berth on trains if they come to BIEC. It is unmanageable, and so we have decided to shut down the facility,” said K.V. Sharath Chandra, IGP, Central Range.

On Tuesday morning, BIEC housed 4,500-odd people, but by late evening nearly 2,000 had boarded trains to various States. But the police are not allowing anyone else to enter. Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao requested migrant workers to remain in their accommodations and contact the local police for details on train services.

Homeless in the city

But most of the labourers have nowhere to return. Jadhav Burman, 31, came to BIEC Tuesday morning with 20 others, all hailing from Cooch Behar in West Bengal. They spent ₹3,000 to get a lift on a truck from Kanakapura Road, only to be sent back. “The company we were working for had provided accommodation, but withdrew it when we refused to start work on a new project. We have been evicted and are out on the streets. Where will the police drop us back to?” he said.

Hundreds of those who gathered at BIEC on Tuesday, have no home to go back to in the city. Mohammed Abdullah, 32, from Bihar who works in a garment factory, said that he and 20 others were evicted from the three rooms they lived in at Sudhamanagar by the landlord as they couldn’t pay rent. “We have run out of money and have no food to eat,” he said.

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At least three zonal Deputy Commissioners were present on the grounds opposite BIEC where labourers gathered on Tuesday. Migrant labourers who had no roof over their heads were being ferried to temporary shelters organised by Deputy Commissioners of Police in marriage halls.

“There is a system in place — register on Seva Sindhu and based on priority and availability of trains, tickets will be issued. BIEC has disrupted that system and those housed there are jumping queues. It is also not fair on others who are waiting their turn. ,” explained Bheemashankar Guled, DCP (North-East).

They gather in front of police stations

Thousands of migrant labourers began gathering in front of police stations especially in Whitefield zone, which has a large concentration of workers in the city.

In front of Varthur police station alone, there were nearly 1,500 migrant labourers — a majority of them from West Bengal, who have been camping at the market nearby for two days now. Volunteers from Whitefield Rising and several other organisations, have been supplying them with food and helping them enrol on Seva Sindhu.

No trains to Bengal and Odisha till May 22

The State government has decided not to run trains to West Bengal and Odisha till May 22 on account of Cyclone Amphal. “The cyclone is expected to wreak damage to these States and the administration is focusing on mitigating that damage. We do not want to add to their burden,” said N. Manjunath Prasad, nodal-officer, inter-State travel from the State.

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Sagar Biswas

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