Migrant workers in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra stage protests

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The migrant workers stranded in various southern states due to lockdown imposed in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak staged protests demanding transport to go back home and salary for the period of the lockdown.

Migrant workers took to streets in several southern states on Thursday demanding transport facilities to go back to their homes.

Hundreds of migrant workers from north and north-eastern state took out marches to police stations and panchayat offices in Kannur, Malappuram and Ernakulam districts in Kerala. Though the agitated workers peacefully dispersed in Kannur and Malappuram districts, in Ernakulam, the police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the gathering.

In Malappuram district, about a hundred migrant workers assembled in front of Perumpadappu police station. Another group of labourers at Veliyancode in the district staged a protest in front of the panchayat office, asking officials to take them back home.

At Payyanur in Kannur district, too, migrant workers staged a protest in front of Payyanur police station. They were upset over the cancellation of some trains, which were scheduled to take the workers from Bihar.

Since May 1, thousands of migrant workers in Kerala were sent to various states like Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand in 16 Shramik trains. But five scheduled trains to Bihar on May 4 had to be cancelled due to the delay in receiving no-objection certificate from the Bihar government.

According to officials of Payyannur police station, the workers who assembled in the station on Thursday were among the group of people whose trains were cancelled. They went back after the officials explained the position.

Protests by migrant workers were also reported from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh on Thursday. In Bengaluru the workers protested against the state government’s decision to cancel all trains that were to ferry them to their hometowns.

They carried placards saying “We have been imprisoned in the very city that we built. We just want to go home." The names of the states they belong to written were written below the slogans, said a report in the Quaint.

The decision evoked strong protests from the opposition parties. Opposition Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah termed the decision "not just inhuman but also violation of fundamental rights."

"The decision to go back or to stay back should be with the labourers & not with the government. Labourers are free to choose health or work. Who will take responsibility if something goes wrong? Are we still practicing bonded labour?" Siddaramaiah said in a tweet.

In Tamil Nadu, the protest by the migrant workers turned violent at Tirupur. According to reports, the agitated workers thronged the roads and burnt vehicle tyres, disrupting traffic on Coimbatore-Bengaluru national highway.

The migrant workers in Tiruput had staged a protest near the Railway station on Monday demanding train services for their respective hometowns. Tiruppur district has 1,27,742 migrant workers who are stranded due to the COVID-19 lockdown. A railway official from Tiruppur said that the State government must ask the Southern Railway to operate the trains necessary to transport the migrant workers based on the number of workers in each district.

In Andhra Pradesh, the migrant workers took to streets at Vishakhapatanam demanding salary for the month of April. They also demanded to go back to their native places. Protesters were also seen holding placards. “We work at HPCL refinery. No one from L&T came to see us in lockdown. 1 staff came and arranged food but now there's no food,” a migrant worker said.

Image Credit: New Indian Express

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