New Delhi | Piyush Aggarwal/Anurag Mishra: COVID-19 has affected the lives and livelihood of every individual in the country and has drastically changed the way we live and work. It was most difficult for the migrant laborers, daily wagers who migrated to urban and metropolitan cities from different parts of the country, to earn a living. When the nationwide lockdown was imposed to contain the pandemic, they were left with no choice but to return to their native place. With no transport facilities available, stranded workers started their journey on foot. Taking note of the burgeoning migrant crisis, the Government began Shramik Special trains and interstate buses for their transport later.

As per the data released in the Parliament, more than 1 cCrore migrant workers returned to their home state because of the nationwide lockdown. In the written reply to an unstarred question, the minister of state for labour and employment shared the state-wise numbers of the workers who returned to their native place. As per the data, the maximum number of migrants returned belongs to Uttar Pradesh (32.5 Lakh), followed by Bihar (15 Lakh) and West Bengal (13.8 Lakh). At the same time, data for 12 states and union-territories was not available.

 

The minister stated that Indian Railways operated special trains for the convenience of the migrant workers to reach home. He was replying to a question about the arrangements made by the Government for the travel of stranded workers.

In a different question on the special trains run by the Government, the minister of railways and commerce and industry, Piyush Goyal, informed the Parliament that 4621 Shramik Special trains operated from May 1 until August 31 and ferried 63.19 Lakh workers to their home state across India.

On asking about the facilities provided by the Railways to the migrant workers during the journey, the Government replied that Railways provided 1.96 Crore meals and 2.19 Crore packaged drinking water bottles to the passengers of Shramik Special Trains. He added that 46.2 Lakh meals and water bottles each were provided by the state governments to the workers at the commencement of the journey.

The Government added that these special trains were organized as “trains on-demand” as and when State Governments requisitioned them. As per the figures released by the ministry, out of the total 4621 trains, Gujarat requisitioned the maximum number of trains (1033, 22%), followed by Maharashtra (817, 18%). For the incoming trains, 1726 or 37% of trains arrived in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar (1627, 35%), which is also evident as close to 45% of the total migrants returned to these two states in the Hindi heartland as per the figures released.

In a written reply to a question on the revenue generated by selling tickets for the Shramik Specials, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said, “Railway have not collected fare from Shramiks. Shramik Specials were booked by State Governments or representatives of State Governments on payment of fare. Revenue of Rs 433 crore has been collected from State Governments and their representatives for running of Shramik Special trains till 31.08.2020.”

On the deaths of migrant workers, the minister added that 97 people died until September 9, while traveling onboard Shramik Special Trains. In 87 cases, State Police has sent dead bodies for post mortem, and 51 reports have been obtained so far. Earlier last week, the labour ministry said they did not have any data on the deaths of migrant workers due to nationwide lockdown.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta