Fearing curbs, migrants head back home

Fearing curbs, migrants head back home

Migrants on their way to the Jalandhar railway station.

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 9

The rising Covid-19 cases have triggered the fear of last year-like lockdown among migrants. Labourers, daily wagers, kiln labourers among others have begun heading back to their states. They say if a lockdown is imposed, they will have to either shell out thousands for a journey back home or remain stranded. Lesser wages during the pandemic has also triggered the return.

“Five to six of my fellow labourers have headed back to UP and Bihar in recent days amid the fears they would be stranded if a lockdown is implemented. Memories of the last year are fresh. Reports from other states of lockdowns have also motivated many to head back,” says Santosh Kumar, a UP resident and daily wage labourer.

150 have left

At our four kilns in Jalandhar, there are 700 to 800 labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar as well as Punjab. Of these, 100 to 150 have already gone back to their states. Lockdowns in other states have compounded their fears. —Rakesh Kumar, Labour contractor

Iqbal Chand Mattu, member, All-Mazdoor Shakti Sangh and Punjab Mazdoor Union, says, “The fear of uncertainty looms. Everyone is fearing another lockdown. Some labourers last year paid Rs 6,000 to 7,000 to reach their native places. Wages are already minimal. Many are contemplating to move out before further restrictions are imposed.” Mattu said 70 per cent of kiln labourers in Punjab were from other states.

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