This Article is From Apr 16, 2020

Stranded Migrant Workers In Kerala Desperate To Return Home

The state government initially provided them with cooked meals, and then, on the request of migrant workers started providing them with raw materials to their taste. But for now, even that is over for this group of 80.

Usually, at this time of the year, many migrants return to reap the agricultural harvest back home

Thiruvananthapuram:

Dijan Mondal, a migrant worker in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram managed to buy 5 kgs of rice and some crispies with the money he and some of his friends could manage to pool-in. In a multi-storey building in the heart of what used to be the district's busiest market in days before the lockdown, 80 of them from West Bengal's Malda live together in 21 rooms -- with no jobs, no money. And for the past three days, they have been surviving on one meal a day.

"We eat one meal a day," another worker Indrajeet says. When asked if that was true, around 15 migrants who were huddled together answer in unison: "yes".

"We don't have money. We need to save ourselves. If we eat three meals usually, we have one meal in a day now," Indrajeet explains.

The state government initially provided them with cooked meals, and then, on the request of migrant workers, started providing them with raw materials. But for now, even that is over for this group of 80.

"We are 20 people. For 20 of us, they gave 15 kg of rice, 10 kg wheat,10 kg potatoes, and oil. It's finished," says Prakash Mandal, one of the migrant workers. 

NDTV alerted Thiruvananthapuram-based NGO Rights about the need for provisions, which now have been provided by the organisation.

Just a few kms away, a school has been converted into a camp for the migrant workers. There are 18,800 such camps, with 3.3 lakh migrant workers being provided with free food, and medical assistance, according to state government estimates.

But despite their basic needs met, the migrants are a worried lot.

"Food is not a problem. They are giving us food but we want to go home. They should have made arrangements for trains. Lockdown is required, we understand... but they should have allowed trains just for 2-3 days, so we could reach our homes. Central government should think about this," one of the migrant workers said. Infact, special train services for migrants after the 21-day lockdown was a demand put forward by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Mohammad Raool Vox has three children and two bhiga agricultural land with maize and wheat ready for harvesting in West Bengal's Malda. Usually, at this time of the year, many like him leave Kerala, and return to reap the agricultural harvest back home.

"There's food in the farm. But my elderly father and wife can't handle all this. If I don't go, what will we sell? What will we eat?" Mohammad Raool Vox says.