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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

COVID-19 Diaries - Day 57 of Lockdown

CONTINUED FROM - COVID-19 Diaries - Day 48 of Lockdown



Lockdown 4.0

20 May 2020

We havent got any update from the police after we registered the names of Sugreev and his friends at the police station. On the 12th of May, the Government began train services to 15 destinations, with limited seating. On these trains, only AC compartments are functional. For Sugreev and his friends, there was only one option - to take the Bengaluru-New Delhi train and alight at Jhansi, which is about 500 km from their hometown. But the tickets to Jhansi were priced thus - Rs 2500 for AC 3tier, Rs3600 for AC 2tier and Rs 6250 for AC First class. It was clearly not a train for the poor. However, Sugreev, who desperately wanted to go back, told me that, in the worst case, he could arrange for that money. Since the tickets were being sold out in minutes of opening, it was impossible to get a berth on that train. Shramik special trains therefore remained the only hope for migrant workers. 

Meanwhile, on the 17th of May, we stepped into the fourth phase of lockdown. A lot has been relaxed in the state of Karnataka. Limited public transport is allowed. A few days ago, our Prime minister, as always, gave a speech that was high on rhetoric. He talked about making India Atmanirbhar (Self reliant) and informed us that the Finance Minister will soon announce an Economic Stimulus Package of 20 Lakh crore, which, like always, he chose to rhyme with 2020. In the week that followed, our Finance Minister gave the details of this Economic Recovery Package

Many declared that the cost to the Government is not 10% of the GDP as claimed but only about 1% of the GDP. Most of the relief came as loans. Schemes with direct money transfer were less. One may argue that with no or meagre demand, MSMEs (Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises) may hesitate to take that loan, which they must someday repay. The package also included free ration for migrant workers and TDS (Tax deducted at source) rates are cut by 25%. PF (Provident fund) was cut from 12% to 10%, which means one could now have more money to spend, rather than save. Additionally, many public sector undertakings (PSUs) will now be privatised

Anyways, in this so called Atmanirbhar Bharath (self-reliant India), many labourers like Sugreev and his friends still struggle to get back home. Everyday, Sugreev would tell me stories about his friends who had somehow made their journey back home. While some were lucky to get on the Shramik Special train, others had traveled on trucks filled with more than 60 workers. It was apparent that they were missing their children and family. All they wanted was to go back home and be with their loved ones. Every day when Sugreev would ask me what news I had, I was hesitant to reply that I had no positive news for him. 

During one of my walks, I noticed that a police station near my house had set up a booth to address queries of migrant workers. I advised Sugreev to enquire there. I chose not to accompany them this time as I thought it would be better if they themselves express their frustrations and eagerness to return home. Sugreev went there early that morning and he spoke to a lady constable. She informed him that the cops have taken some Bihar migrants to the railway station and will return by 10 AM. She asked them to come by at 10 AM and get the names registered. 

Sugreev decided to take a day off as the owner of the house where they work isn't very supportive. He does not like it if they take time off. Instead, it was easier for them to take the entire day off. When Sugreev told the owner that he was going to the police station to check on his request, the owner did not seem happy. He wanted them to complete the work and then leave. "If you finish our work, then we will help you return home." he allegedly told them. Sugreev was quick in his response. He asked him - "So will you not help us, if we do not complete the work?" There obviously was no answer to that. 

At 10 AM, when Sugreev went to the police station again, a constable told them that this wasn’t the station they had to report to as their area came under a different police station. I really do not understand how it matters. The migrant workers like Sugreev do not have a permanent house in Bangalore. They live in a construction site and vacate it when the work is complete. Even if they do live in a rented house, does it really matter which police station has to take care of it? No address proof is asked from them anyways. I understand that the police wants to distribute the work but that is valid in normal circumstances, with people permanently living in an area. 

Anyways, we had no other option but to return to the same police station were we had already registered a few days back. This time, Sugreev spoke to the man who was registering workers on a computer. He was again asked for Seva Sindhu registration form and copy of Aadhaar card (ID card). He assured them that they would get a call from him soon. 

We no longer await that magic SMS. Instead, all of us are eagerly waiting for a call from the police station. Somehow, this time, things look positive. 


CONTINUED HERE - COVID-19 Diaries - Day 59 of Lockdown



2 comments:

  1. I am kind of confused. I read somewhere that the Central Government is paying for the 80% of the ticket cost for these migrant workers and the State of Karnataka is paying for the other 20%. Is this a fake news? Also, how about Mrs. Gandhi saying her party will bear the cost of the train tickets. It is not "police wants to distribute the work". They want to pass the buck to someone else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, there are fake news and there are lies! The events unfolded something like this - Government announces Shramik Special train - Sonia Gandhi criticises GOVT for charging the labourers and announces that Congress will pay for the fare - Immediately the BJP Government declares that Railways will pay 85% and state 15%. That's it! Press releases and twitter updates are done. The ground reality is that neither BJP Government, nor Congress is paying for the ticket; the migrant himself is. Here are some news updates -

      https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/karnataka-migrant-labourers-pay-rs-1-050-each-to-travel-on-shramik-trains-1675925-2020-05-08

      https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/paid-for-train-tickets-with-final-savings-say-migrant-workers-from-bihar-1675197-2020-05-07

      https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/railway-paying-85-state-govt-15-fare-for-migrant-workers-bjp/articleshow/75528204.cms

      However, some states are paying for the train fare. I am aware of Kerala doing that.

      https://www.ndtv.com/kerala-news/coronavirus-kerala-gives-food-to-migrant-workers-they-pay-for-train-ride-home-2222274

      Delete

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