New Delhi: Hours after a family of labourers who wanted to return home to Purnea district in Bihar, came back to their temporary home at a construction site in South Extension Part II after making a failed attempt to find a train, they were assaulted by the builder, who wanted them to vacate the premises.
The incident would have passed off like any other assault, but for a public health counsellor who works with WHO and UNICEF and who took the case up with the police, got a case registered and had the builder arrested.
The doctor, Sonali Vaid, who stays three houses from the P-23 South Extension Part II construction site said it was important to come to the aid of the workers when there are no trains to take them home.
“I asked the family and they said they had gone to make enquiries about getting a train to their district but returned this afternoon when they were told that the train would only be going up to Muzaffarpur district, which is nearly 300 kilometres from their native place. How would they have managed on reaching there? They would have had to walk like millions others,” Vaid told The Wire.
But, she said, the family was allegedly assaulted by the builder on returning to the site. “On hearing the commotion, when I reached the site, I saw the woman, Meera, wailing. She claimed that the builder had beaten and kicked her. He left in a car after that.”
WHY ARE MIGRANTS WALKING?
This woman was beaten by bricks and kicked by her builder.Builder drove away after beating her. CUT OFF THE ELECTRICITY line to the under construction building that is their only shelter.Broad day light South Delhi posh colony.Opression MISERY VIOLENCE pic.twitter.com/bjv9KV7Mzo
— Dr. Sonali Vaid MD MPH (@SonaliVaid) May 19, 2020
Vaid, who recorded her conversation with the woman labourer, then shared it with her friends through social media. “I learnt that there was an ongoing dispute between them and the builder as he had paid them only partial wages.”
This afternoon, she said, the builder, who the family identified as Lota Batra came to the site and allegedly assaulted the woman while her children were around. He asked them to vacate the premises.
In a message to her friends, Vaid further wrote: “At 4 pm 19th May woman was sleeping – she alleges builder came and started kicking her – she woke up. He ordered them to leave – they pleaded – he threw a brick at the woman. I (Sonali) got a call from them asking for help. When I reached site she was crying & in distress. And narrated the incident to me.”
A complaint was subsequently lodged with the police. The woman was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for a medical examination. The Hauz Khas police later registered an FIR and arrested the builder.
Vaid said she was not an activist or someone who regularly helped migrant workers. “Today, I thought I have to intervene. This case provided a snapshot of what the migrants are dealing with. There are no trains for them to go home. And on the other hand there is violence and oppression at the hands of builders.”