Inspired by Sonu Sood, Jalandhar businessman sends 800 stranded labourers home

He, along with kin and friend, searched highways, picked up migrant workers walking to far-off places

Inspired by Sonu Sood, Jalandhar businessman sends 800 stranded labourers home

Amid the massive exodus of labourers to their native states, Rakesh Kumar and other do-gooders convince migrants not to walk thousands of miles on foot in Jalandhar. Tribune photograph

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 25

Twenty migrants heading to UP and Bihar on foot (12 from Nakodar and eight from Amritsar) in Jalandhar were sent off to their destinations via trains to Buxar and Siwana a few days ago. Seventy more sent in batches a few days later. None of these labourers were registered.

Amid the massive exodus of labourers to their native states, a Jalandhar-based industrialist and his family convinced over 500 labourers in the district not to walk thousands of miles on foot. Sustaining losses in his own industry, the industrialist said the plight of his factory workers and other labourers moved him to help others.

Scurrying highways for labourers daily, industrialist Raman Kumar (32) along with father Rakesh Kumar (54) and friend Ravinder Bhardwaj has sent back over 800 people (400 factory workers wrongly registered or unable to get a call from the authorities) and over 400 people they picked up on highways, convincing them not to undertake the ardous journey. There have been days when they sent 20 persons on a single day.

A shoe factory owner, Raman, whose 90 per cent of the factory labourers also returned (after being facilitated by him), began helping others to undertake safe journeys back to their villages. Along with his father and friends from the shoe market Jalandhar, Raman searched highways daily for the past about a month with a vehicle stacked with bananas and water. They stopped labourers who were walking, fed them and felicitate journey to their native places.

For the past over a month, everyday, they have been taking labourers to nearest screening centres, convincing police officials to ensure leftover seats on Shramik Special trains for them. For those left out, they ensured food for the night and arrangements for boarding next train or buses. At their insistence, poor labourers from Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Pathankot and Jalandhar were sent on trains, buses, trucks and some were sent on trains till UP if they didn’t get the same to Bihar.

Losses to his own industry haven’t deterred Raman in helping them. He says Sonu Sood greatly inspired him.

"I have only 15 labourers left at my factory. There is one thing about Punjab. No one starves here. If I had more money, I would do what Sonu Sood did in Mumbai. But I acted as per my resources. These people who have been working for us don’t have food or slippers. All they want is to reach home at any cost. It’s difficult to convince them to stay back. A majority of the labourers we met were either already registered or tired of waiting for months. Hence, they started their journeys on foot, risking their lives. Many stayed back for stranded or unregistered family members, unwilling to part. We persuaded local and police officials to include these people on the Shramik trains. On most days, the officials accommodated the labourers we took to them. On occasions when trains were full, we provided food to them till they found next trains or buses. Now, most of them have left."

While 800 labourers from the shoe market (including his own factory) were registered initially, 400, who couldn’t board trains, were facilitated by Raman. An additional over 400 were sent after being picked from the highway.

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