Same story a year later: Migrants start returning to their hometowns

Same story a year later: Migrants start returning to their hometowns

Migrants on way to the railway station. Photos: Sarabjit Singh

Aakanksha N Bhardwaj

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 19

Those bad old days are back again when industrialists suffered due to the shortage of labour, were unable to meet the demand of production, urged their workers to stay back and what not. A year ago, when migrants got to know about the sudden lockdown, they were so frightened that they left for their hometowns on their bicycle or on foot because there was no availability of cars and trains for a long time.

This time, they do not want to take the chances and have started going back to their native places. Every day double-decker buses can be seen packed with migrant labourers. It’s like a déjà vu situation for industrialists.

Deja vu for industrialists

  • Last year several industrialists had offered increased wages to labourers to make them stay here. Since workers are the primary need of every establishment, those who stayed back were given more respect due to the shortage of labourers. This time again, the situation is the same
  • Gursharan Singh, president, Jalandhar Industrial and Traders' Association, said: “There is again labour crunch in factories. Migrant labourers feel that if another lockdown is imposed, what they will do here. There is a shortage of labourers to load and unload goods too,” he said
  • However, some industrialists say these days, workers normally go back to their villages because there are weddings in their native places and they have to look after their crops too

With news of another lockdown doing the round on TV channels, social media and newspapers, a large number of migrants have started returning to their original homes as they do not want to face the hardships they faced last year.

Gursharan Singh, president, Jalandhar Industrial and Traders’ Association, said, “There is again labour crunch in factories. Migrant labourers feel that if another lockdown is imposed, what they will do here. There is a shortage of labourers to load and unload goods too,” he said.

He said small-scale industrial units were already on ventilator and exodus of migrant workers would prove to be a double whammy for them.

Notably, last year several industrialists had offered increased wages to labourers to make them stay here. Since workers are the primary need of every establishment, those who stayed back were given more respect due to the shortage of labourers. This time again, the situation is the same.

As Jalandhar district is witnessing a large number of Covid cases, industrialists — who run pipe fitting, valves and cocks, sports, nut and bolts and rubber chappal manufacturing units — are a harried lot. These industries have a huge concentration here and they supply products across the length and breadth of the country.

But the lockdown in Delhi, Maharashtra and some parts of Ludhiana has greatly affected their business.

Ravinder Dhir, president, Veopar Sena, said, “We have been struggling to bring our units back on track, but another lockdown would dash industrial unit owners’ hopes of recovery. Aane waale din pareshaani waale hi hain ab toh,” he said.

Rakesh Chawla, a unit owner, said migrant labourers were giving several excuses to return to their villages. “While some tell us, some do not that they are returning to their villages. Even we do not force them to stay back. I do not know what will happen next,” Chawla shared.

Some industrialists say these days, workers normally go back to their villages because there are weddings in their native places and they have to look after their crops too. “For now, it cannot be said that workers are in panic, but the coming days will tell the exact picture,” said city industrialist Balram Kapur.

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