Migrant workers from other states, who are stranded at different locations in Bengal and local people stranded in other states have become a cause of concern for chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
On Thursday, Banerjee wrote to the chief ministers of 18 states, urging them to provide basic shelter, food and medicine to migrant workers from Bengal. “We, in Bengal, are taking care of such stuck people in our state,” wrote Banerjee.
While the state government is providing food to people stranded at bus terminus and railway stations the government has so far succeeded in sending back people only to Assam. The rest are stranded.
Around 170 labourers from Bihar’s Bhagalpur are stranded outside the railway station at Katwa in East Burdwan district since the movement of trains stopped.
“Acting on the decision of the state government the state railway police made an attempt to send back these people in trucks but the vehicles were stopped at the Jharkhand border and sent back,” said Bikash Dutta, officer-in-charge, Katwa police station.
There are many women in this group which is now dependent on supplies provided by the state administration. “Please do something to reunite us with our families. We cannot live here forever,” said Meena Devi, a labourer.
At Kankinara in North 24 Parganas, where the majority of labourers working in the local jute factories are from Bihar and have permanently settled down in Bengal, some are migrants. “I am stranded. Luckily, I have relatives there and hence not facing many problems,” said Sudharshan Shaw, a migrant.
For those who hail from Bengal, buses are being provided to take them to their home districts. A group of 52 people from Murshidabad district, who were stuck in West Midnapore were sent home on Wednesday.
State transport secretary N S Nigam said migrant labourers from Assam, hundreds of whom were stranded at Howrah station, were sent home in buses.
However, Bengalis stranded in other states are not so lucky.
Samudra Saikat Dey, a resident of Hakimpara in Siliguri, his wife and their seven-year-old daughter went to Chennai for the child’s treatment. The family is now stranded in a hotel.
“We are helpless. Many people in Bengal spend a lot of money and sometimes go beyond their means to come to Chennai for treatment. There are migrant labourers as well. Many hotel owners are asking people to vacate,” said Dey.
Bipul Dutta, a daily wage earner from Assam’s Bhujai is also stranded in Chennai where he went for the treatment of his 11-year-old daughter. “We have exhausted all resources and cannot sustain for long. We will die if this crisis continues,” said Dutta.
On Thursday Banerjee wrote to the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi, Odisha, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Goa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“We have received information that many such workers who are residents of Bengal are stuck in your state too. We are getting SOS calls from them. They are generally in groups of 50 to 100 can be easily identified by the local administration,” the letter said.
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