3 Migrant Workers Sell Life's Possessions to Get Plane Tickets, Learn Flights Have Been Cancelled

The labourers had first been told that they wouldn't get a refund. IndiGo has subsequently offered them seats on the first available flight.

New Delhi: Unable to get a ticket on a Shramik Special train, three migrant labourers in Maharashtra had sold their precious assets to buy air tickets to Kolkata – only to be stranded again, as their flight was cancelled.

In the aftermath of the news breaking, IndiGo has promised them passage on the first available flight or a refund. In a tweet, IndiGo added that they had offered to rebook them on first service on May 28, but they have decided to travel on June 1. 

Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri too tweeted with the same promise, adding that the cancellation had been because ‘of the restrictions by the concerned state government’. 

West Bengal had asked for flights to be postponed till May 28, as it coped with the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.

As per media reports, three migrant workers from Murshidabad, Sona Mullah, Raheema Khatun and Farid Mullah, who have been working near Thane, have been trying to book tickets home on the special trains for migrant workers.

After they learned that flights have opened, the trio decided to spend their savings on a passage home. Their families sold off their cattle to collect money to pay for air tickets.

On Monday, they took an Ola taxi from Diva near Thane, to the airport. This cost them Rs 2,000. But, when they reached the airport, they learned that the flight had been cancelled.

Speaking to a reporter of The Hindu, Sona Mullah broke down. “We have no income since the lockdown. We tried repeatedly for train tickets and then heard about the resumption of flight services. My wife sold three goats back home in Murshidabad. It fetched us Rs 9,600. She then borrowed Rs 1,000 and we purchased this ticket,” he said.

The Times of India reported that Mullah was initially told by an IndiGo employee at the airport that his money spent on the ticket won’t be refunded.

Khatun had sold a gold ring, while Farid Mullah had borrowed money and spend all his savings to go back home.

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Sona Mullah stated that his return was necessary as his three daughters and wife wanted him to return. He had been working away from home for 20 months at a stretch. “I have a daughter whose wedding I need to arrange. If not for this pandemic, my family would have been focusing on the wedding and not on my return,” he said.

Meanwhile, Times of India reported that the trio had to return to Diva by taxi, again paying Rs 2,000. They will presumably make the same trip again on June 1.

Since the announcement of a lockdown to stop spread of COVID-19 with just a notice of four of hours in March, the absence of economic activity has led to massive exodus of migrant workers from big cities to their homes.

The first special train for migrant workers began on May 9, six weeks after the lockdown began on March 25.