Labour

Lockdown: Across Gujarat, Migrant Workers Agitate for Passage Home

Near a Surat village, workers pelted stones at police who teargassed and baton-charged them.

Surat: Hundreds of migrant workers seeking to return home clashed with police near a village in Gujarat’s Surat district on Monday. While the agitating workers pelted stones at police, the latter lobbed teargas shells and baton-charged them.

In a separate incident, several labourers also came out on a road in Rajkot demanding that they be sent back to their hometowns, while some migrant workers got their heads tonsured in an area of Surat, in protest, after being unable to go back home.

Hundreds of migrant workers clashed with police near Vareli village on the outskirts of Surat, asking to be sent back to their native places in the wake of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, a police official said.

They threw stones at the police, following which security personnel retaliated and lobbed teargas shells and lathi-charged them, he said.

The labourers also damaged some vehicles parked on Surat-Kadodara road, he said.

The situation was later brought under control and security was stepped up in the area, he added.

Besides, 50 migrant labourers got their heads tonsured in Surat’s Pandesara locality on Monday after being unable to leave for their native places in Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.


They claimed that two days back their buses were given permission to leave Gujarat. But, later they were stopped at Kosamba in Surat by local administration officials due to lack of “valid permission” and asked to go back.

The workers said they have been waiting endlessly for the administration to clear their journey back home.

One of them said the money they arranged for the bus fare after lot of hardships has not been returned to them, and demanded that governments of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat co-ordinate their travel back home without delay.

“Many of us sold off our watches and mobile phones to arrange for the bus fare. Now we are still at the same place, with no permission given to our buses to move. We are stranded here with no help from officials. We demand the governments of the two states to coordinate fast for our return back home,” he said.

In Rajkot, hundreds of migrant workers came out on road in Shapar-Veraval industrial area on the city outskirts, demanding that they be sent back home.

Police said they managed to persuade the workers to call off the protest, and brought the situation under control.

“We have proactively reached out to migrants in their residential localities and have explained to them that they will be allowed to leave in vehicles that they themselves arrange after getting a medical checkup done and completing other formalities,” Rajkot Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone-1) Ravi Mohan Saini said.

“In some areas, we have received complaints regarding landlords demanding rent and factory owners not paying salary.

We will take action on such complaints. So far, the migrants have understood and are peaceful,” he said.

Some migrant workers also gathered outside the Rajkot collector’s office to fill forms for returning home, saying they had no food and money to sustain their livelihood.

One of the workers, a native of Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, said he filled the form as told by police.

“The factory where I worked is closed, and I want to go back to my native place. They say we will have to arrange our our own vehicles to return to our native place, but we want the government to send us back in train,” he said.

Some of the workers said they have not got salaries from factories where they worked, while their landlords are still demanding house rent.

“Our company gave the salary initially but is not paying us any more. We have nothing to eat, we want the government to arrange for a train back to our native place from Rajkot,” said another worker.