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Hunger brought migrants home, now drives them back miles away

Hunger brought migrants home, now drives them back miles away
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Patna: Hunger and hopelessness drove tens of thousands of migrant workers from cities of their dreams, vibrant and pulsating with life and activity, to languorous villages in Bihar during the lockdown.

It's hunger and hopelessness again that is pushing them back to the cities in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana, and the sprawling farms of Punjab, disregarding the threat of the Coronavirus disease that had brought them too their knees.

Their employers, many of whom had virtually abandoned them, are sending them train and even flight tickets to bring them back as factories whir back to life, construction activity picks up, and the sowing season has started.

Mail and express trains to places like Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Secundrabad and Bengaluru, from where these workers hurried back home, walking, cycling and travelling on trucks and even the hollow of container trucks and concrecte mixing plants, are running to capacity.

According to sources in the East Central Zone of the railways, the average occupancy in Muzaffarpur-Ahmedabad Special is 133 per cent, Danapur-Secundrabad special (126 per cent), Jaynagar-Amritsar special (123 per cent), Danapur- Bengaluru city special (120 per cent), Patna-Ahmedabad special (117 per cent), Saharsa-New Delhi special (113 per cent) and Danapur-Pune special (102 per cent).

Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO), ECR, Rajesh Kumar, told PTI that the railways is closely monitoring the waiting lists and quickly updating reservation status to facilitate travel.

"If need arises, more trains can be run on routes witnessing heavy traffic," he said.

ECR includes Danapur, Sonepur, DeendayalUpadhyaya, Samastipur and Dhanbad railway divisions.

A report from north Bihar's Darbhanga district said luxury buses and other vehicles with Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh number plates could be seen transporting migrants back to their places of work.

Several companies in the manufacturing, industrial goods and real estate sector have even chartered aircraft to bring back their skilled and semi-skilled employees.

"Whatever money I had has been spent. I don't know when I will get the job card for working in MNREGA projects.

We may die of hunger staying here and protecting ourselves from Coronavirus," said Kusho Mandal of Anandpur village, who worked as a farm hand in Punjab before the lockdown began.

The fields of Punjab are beckoning Rajeev Chaupal of Ratyari-Khirikpur village, too.

"I am returning to the farm of my employer in Punjab.

He has promised me handsome cash," he said.

They said they are being offerdRs 5,000 for planting paddy saplings on an acre of farmland instead of Rs 3,500 that was the going rate before the outbreak. Their families are also getting paid Rs 15,000-20,000 advance.

People like Mandal and Chaupal are leaving for their old places of work despite the launch of Rs 50,000 crore 'GaribKalyanRojgarAbhiyaan' by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give a fresh impetus to rural livelihood. The campaign, launched in mission mode, will be implemented in 116 districts, each having over 25,000 migrant workers, in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Jharkhand.

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