Not just a train ticket, stranded workers have to pay for a medical certificate and get a nod from the police
Every year, millions of people across the country leave their homes in search of work in big cities to feed their families because they cannot find work in their villages. In the big cities, they are mostly employed in the unskilled sector, in jobs ranging from factories to construction.
With everything they earn, they have to feed themselves, pay their rent, and send money home to support themselves. This often means that millions of migrant workers will have no savings and that not working for a few days could only mean one thing: hunger.
Since mid-March, millions of migrant workers across the country have been through this, as COVID-19 had forced the closure of many factories and construction sites even before the national lockdown went into effect.
Today, after nearly a month and a half, they have a glimmer of hope that they will be able to return home, thanks to the special trains operated by the Indian Railway. It was a short-lived joy for many after learning that they will have to pay for the tickets to return home.
Many of those who could afford the tickets bought them, while others said they had to borrow money from friends or relatives to pay the cost of the trip.
Controversy erupted on Monday after several opposition parties demanded that migrant workers not be charged for train tickets.
As Congress offered to pay for the workers, the BJP fired back, saying the railways already provide subsidized tickets covering 85% of travel costs.
On Monday, the government said it had never talked about charging workers for train tickets. “We have given permission to run special trains at the request of states. We divide the cost into 85 to 15% (railroad: states) according to standards. We have never asked states to charge for money to stranded workers, ”the health ministry said. said Co-Secretary Lav Agarwal.
Several states like Maharashtra and Kerala, which have a significant number of migrant workers, said the trip should be made free of charge or that the central government should bear the expenses as the states are unable to pay for it due to the financial situation resulting from this coronavirus. pandemic.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state did not intend to pay migrants’ tickets. “The guest workers booked their tickets for their trip themselves. We thought the Center would cover the expenses, but that’s not happening, ”Vijayan said. When asked if the state intended to cover the ticket costs, he replied, “No. The state government had planned no such thing.
In Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka, a government official confirmed that workers were paying their own way back on special Shramik trains. “No, the passengers themselves pay,” the official said when asked if the state government paid for migrant workers.
While the debate over who pays for what goes into train tickets is just one of the struggles migrant workers face.
Before they can board the train, they must have a medical certificate attesting that they have no symptoms of acute respiratory infection, fever, cough, cold, shortness of breath or the like. And depending on the location and the doctor, migrant workers say they had to pay between Rs100 and Rs.500 to get the certificates.
They must also present them to the local police station, along with identification and certain other documents. Only after receiving authorization are they allowed to travel.
Another difficulty is the online registration for those who wish to return. Most state governments had required migrants to register on various online portals. However, since most of them are illiterate or do not have good internet skills, people charge 10 to 50 rupees just for filling out the online forms.
Even after getting all the clearances, they still have to pay for their trip to the train station, which in most cases are rented buses, where a person may have to pay a few hundred rupees or more to reach the stations.