Migrant labourers belonging to West Bengal can finally heave a sigh of relief, as they make their way home, not by foot, but by the Shramik special trains and buses headed for the eastern state. With the lockdown being relaxed for movement of special trains and buses in the last one week, it has however still been a tough time for migrant labourers. The West Bengal government through their twitter handle GOWB has offered condolences to migrants workers from Purulia district who were killed on Saturday.
“GOWB offers it’s condolences over the unfortunate death of 3 / 4 persons today in Auraiya district in UP. They died in UP on their way home in Purulia. Compensation @Rs.2lakh per head is reaching next of the kin here asap (sic),” reads the tweet.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also written to the Chairman of the Railway Board in Delhi saying that the state government will bear the cost of travel for migrants. “In connection with the aforementioned I would like to confirm that the entire cost of movement by special trains to West Bengal, of migrants of the state, stranded in various parts of the country, shall be borne by the government of West Bengal,” reads the letter.
There were reports in the last one week, of migrant workers having to shell out more than the regular ticket fare, that too at a time when most of them have run out of money. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been vocal on the issue while lashing out at the BJP led government at the Centre for charging a higher ticket fare.
Mamata has shown concern for migrant workers since the beginning of the lockdown. The West Bengal Chief Minister had written to Chief Ministers of 18 states during the initial phase of the lockdown, asking for migrant workers from her state to be given food and be provided shelter at night.
Speaking on Saturday, West Bengal Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari said that the state Transport Depart had decreed that there would be no increase in the fare of government buses. Till the time the lockdown remains in place, there will be no increase in fare for both public and private buses. Buses will run between 7 am and 7 pm, only in only non containment zones. Buses will run after 30 minutes, he said.
Taxis will run as per metre. While 200 Ola and Uber cabs are running at present, from Monday, this number would be increased to 1000.
Migrant workers have now been welcomed back into the state, though for many reaching their villages in the interiors of West Bengal, the toil is still not over. Many have been walking on foot and sleeping on railway tracks, as was seen in the Aurangabad incident on the 8th of May where 16 migrant workers were killed by a speeding train.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to the Chief Secretaries of all states on Friday saying that no migrant workers should be found walking on the road or railway tracks and if found they should be taken to nearby shelters. The Home secretary has now put the onus on states and union territories to ensure the safety of migrant workers.