Surat: Migrant workers’ struggle to return home took a violent turn on Saturday as hundreds clashed with police at Mora village in Gujarat’s Surat district.
Amidst the escalating protests, The Quint has reported that a local man, Rajesh Varma, described by the portal as a BJP worker, has duped 100 labourers by charging them thrice the actual ticket price for passage to their home state of Jharkhand. However, no train was supposed to leave for Jharkhand after Monday and eventually the labourers discovered that they had been cheated.
Another low from Surat.
A ‘BJP Worker’ Rajesh Varma duped migrant workers, wanting to go to Jharkhand, by selling them train tickets at 3X rate. No train was supposed to go to J’khand anytime soon. Few days later, when workers went to his office, he resorted to assault.@TheQuint pic.twitter.com/gMq6R9XnlU
— Asmita Nandy (@NandyAsmita) May 8, 2020
“On Friday, 8 May, a video surfaced where a man who is seen bleeding from his forehead claimed that Varma had asked each person to pay around Rs 2,000 for a ticket (actually worth at Rs 750) back to Jharkhand. Even amid the lockdown, the workers arranged for the money and together paid around Rs 1.40 lakh to Varma,” the report said.
The BJP denies Varma is with the party, with Surat BJP president Nitin Bhajiawala telling PTI, “Rajesh Verma is not a BJP worker. The party has not asked any of its workers to book tickets. The party has nothing to do with this.”
However, The Quint said a “note with BJP’s letterhead reads that Varma was indeed appointed by the Surat BJP to help the migrant workers from Jharkhand with their tickets and forms.”
The man who was bleeding had allegedly been beaten for protesting at Varma’s house.
BJP leaders beat up migrant labourers in Surat for demanding money to be returned as labourers didn’t get ticket even after paying money. A group of labourers asked Rs 1.16 lakh be paid back as local BJP leaders took money but didn’t provide tickets threatening them instead pic.twitter.com/t6pF3c0LPp
— TheAgeOfBananas (@iScrew) May 8, 2020
In a similar instance, a video watermarked Ahmedabad Mirror shows an alleged BJP councillor’s brother promising train tickets to purported migrant workers.
BJP workers are fleecing migrant workers in Gujarat, promising them train tickets to go home.
This man Amar, brother of Surat BJP councillor Amit Rajput is asking for ₹ 80000 from 80 ppl wanting to go to UP.
This is the second such incident in two days.pic.twitter.com/PdiewXUHMx
— Ravi Nair (@t_d_h_nair) May 9, 2020
For Saturday morning’s agitation than 40 workers were detained, PTI said. Several of them pelted stones at police vehicles in Mora village near the industrial town of Hazira, according to an official.
Protesting workers demanded that the district administration arrange for their travel back to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, among others states.
Most of these labourers worked in industrial units at Hazira and lived in Mora village, the official said, adding that the police had cordoned off the area and tightened security there.
Another incident of police-migrants clash when hundreds of migrants in Mora village near Surat’s main industrial zone Hazira gathered demanding that they be allowed to go back immediately. The police had to use tear gas to disperse the mob. @the_hindu. pic.twitter.com/Ib18IB3L63
— Mahesh Langa (@LangaMahesh) May 9, 2020
Migrant workers in Gujarat, especially in the industrial hub of Surat, have been agitating for passage home for nearly a week now. Surat-based powerlooms and textile units employ thousands of people from the eastern state who are now stranded and out of job due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
On Thursday, defying lockdown norms, hundreds of migrant workers from Odisha came out on the roads in Surat city upon learning the Odisha government has revoked permission to three trains which were scheduled to leave on Friday.
In early April too, as many as 80 migrant labourers had been arrested in Surat for defying the COVID-19 lockdown and going on a rampage and setting on fire several vegetable carts.
Incidentally, Gujarat government on Friday announced key labour law exemptions in the state in an attempt to attract investment after the lockdown.
Except for laws pertaining to the payment of minimum wages, following safety norms and adequate compensation for workers in case of industrial accidents, no other provisions of the labour law would apply to all new companies that wish to operate in the state for at least 1,200 days, and for those that have already been operational for that period, chief minister Vijay Rupani said.
(With PTI inputs)