While the children of the rich studying in Kota are being ferried back, the poor labourers who are stranded in other states are waiting for the same help from the state government. But despite their desperate pleas, the state government has continued to turn a blind eye to them. Do they deserve the same privilege has become the question of the hour as the world celebrates Labour Day today.
Every year, around 15,000 labourers from Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts travel to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to pluck the chillies. A majority of these labourers are women. “Even though Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar is the guardian minister of both the districts, our calls for help could not move him. We were hoping that he would take an initiative to bring back these labourers. The Odisha government arranged vehicles to bring back their people back from Surat. Similarly, Gujarat sent buses for devotees stranded at Vaishnodevi and Punjab sent buses for their devotees stranded at Nanded. Why has the Maharashtra government not sent buses for these labourers when they could send them for the children of rich people studying at Kota?” asks Paromita Goswami, a labour activist, who heads the Shramik Elgar organisation which has been active for more than two decades.
“A woman labour named Babybai of Pethgaon village in Chandrapur district called me and apprised me about their plight. She is one of the 13,000 chilli pickers from our district stranded in Telangana. She's been calling me everyday to tell how desperate she is to return back home. It's increasingly impossible for them to stay in the open. Two days before, it had rained heavily and every single item of her meagre belongings was soaking wet- foodgrains, utensils and clothes, including what she was wearing. When I see, hear or read the words - stay home, stay safe - I am reminded of the thousands of laborers who have neither home, nor are safe,” Goswami told FPJ.
District collector’s help
After the central government allowed the transportation of labourers, District Collector Dr Kunal Khemnar has now started preparations to bring back these labourers. “I met the collector on Thursday and we discussed the plan to bring them back in detail. The collector has announced some telephone numbers for labourers to contact. We will need at least 500 buses to bring them back,” she said.