The Railways must release trainsto take all migrants to their states
The plight of migrant workers in Goa, as in other states, remains unredeemed. They have faced loss of employment and starvation; many of them were evicted from their accommodation as they had no money to pay the rent. Ten thousand migrant workers have gone from Goa by train to their states. But more than a lakh of them still are stuck up in different parts of the state. Like the migrant workers in other states, they are caught between the mutual accusations of lack of urgency among the central government, the government of their native state and the government of the state in which they are stuck up. Many of them have registered with the government seeking its help to return home but failed to get any response as a result of lack of urgency and coordination among governments. The workers have been told that they would receive calls when the arrangements have been made to send them home, which has somehow remained elusive. With the wait to return home getting longer each passing day, these hapless people are growing impatient.
The migrant workers, who came from states faraway hoping to make a better living in Goa, have been trapped since March 22. They had been hoping that the lockdown would end, but with at the end of every lockdown, it has been extended. Their long wait has now turned into despair with the central government not arranging adequate number of trains. The continuation of lockdown with no relaxation in the fourth phase has dashed the hopes of the employers and employees, especially in the hotel and tourism sector. Many employers have informed their employees that their services were no longer required. Having lost their money and shelter and with no chances of revival of activities in near future most workers want to return at the earliest and have been making frequent trips to government offices insisting that they be sent back home. It is distressing to note that the authorities have told these illiterate workers with hardly any technical knowledge to check the status of their request on the website. There is possibility of some missing out as they may not get the information about their travel arrangements in time to catch trains back home.
With life turning more and more miserable every day, hundreds of workers have been walking distances to reach railway stations hoping to catch a train. Their ordeal continues as they are directed to approach the collectors and register with them. Many of them are unaware of the locations of the offices. They are disturbed when they are forced to stay in the hot sun for hours to complete the formalities and then told that they would be informed in the coming days when they would be able to go. The state government should have set up registration facilities at the taluka level and made arrangements for their stay and food till arrangements for travel to their home states were made. The authorities should have played a more proactive role in ensuring that these migrants were not evicted from their accommodation. Perhaps the politicians do not much care as the migrants are not their voters.
Though the government has appealed to the landlords not to insist on rent payment, the plea has apparently fallen on deaf ears. Some landlords have adopted coercive strategies disconnecting power and water supply to their rooms. No wonder, the number of migrants on the roads is threatening to increase. Their number is so large, it is beyond the capacity of charitable organizations to provide all of them shelter and food. Humanity appears to have taken a back seat in the state, which for long has been known as the most hospitable place in the country. Unlike other states where agitated migrant workers have resorted to stone pelting and violence, Goa has not witnessed any such incident despite the sloth in arranging transport home for them. The state government must not any more delay arranging transportation for them, as their patience might run out and we may too see venting of anger by them against public and private properties. The state government must get the central government to give more trains and the state governments concerned to give consent.