While IFTU National Committee was amongst the first organizations to condemn the inhuman attacks by the Central Govt on migrant workers by forcing them to be grounded without food and shelter and by setting the police on them, we also tried to play a role in reaching out to migrant workers in various places to at least ensure that food and rations could reach them where ever they were trapped.
News came in earliest from Odisha where many organizations including ours moved to pool contacts and distress calls so that best help could be offered to the workers. Odia migrants including those n our contact were stuck in Tamil Nadu in Thrissur, in Andhra Pradesh at various points, in Rangareddy district of Telengana and many other centres. In Tamil Nadu our comrades intervened and spoke to the DM, pursuing the matter till the migrant working women were supplied rations, In Kerala we requested a fraternal trade union organization and through their intervention were able to arrange rations for over 200 workers from West Bengal stuck in Ernakulum. In Ranga Reddy district when repeated interventions with the authorities, the police and helplines all failed, our friends reached out with rations and have kept 14 workers fed for the past month. IFTU leaders also intervened in several cases to support inter-state migrant workers stranded in Hyderabad.
Workers of Balia (UP), over 200 of them stuck near Ghaziabad without food and abandoned by contractors were transported home after authorities made food arrangements for them for several days and this was possible through the intervention of Delhi IFTU leaders. The same comrade also reached out to workers of Balia District stuck in Karnataka in Uttar Kannada District. In Karnataka workers from Tripura stuck at an industrial area 50 kms from Bengaluru were reached by IFTU comrades through intellectual contacts who were able to mobilize students to reach initial food to the 11 workers until more systematic help moved in. Some cases of stranded workers in Bengaluru were also addressed by IFTU reaching help to them.
In Andhra Pradesh the IFTU comrades rose to the occasion and intervened in several ways. Workers from Odisha, UP, Jharkhand and Bihar were found stranded in Eluru. They had been employed at the jute mills and had not received wages and their rations were over. Their issues were taken up. In Kovvuru, more than 300 workers from Uttar Pradesh and Odisha primarily, working as sand workers on the banks of Godavari were organized by our comrades. A demonstration was held demanding wages, food and the right to go home. Police initially lathicharged the gathering in the best traditions being displayed everywhere in the country. Later the DSP apologized for the violence and the SDM was pressurized by our comrades to arrange transport and trains to take all the workers home at the expense of the AP Govt. Few days later 9 workers of Odisha reached Kovvuru after walking there from Warangal (Telengana) in a bid to return home. Our comrades found them, made the necessary arrangements for their rest, shelter and food and prevailed upon the local administration to send them home at the expense of the AP Govt, though they had to argue hard to force this as the workers had walked in from Telengana. Meanwhile comrades of IFTU in Tirupati traced 300 workers from UP who were sitting near the MRO office asking to be sent home. IFTU leaders interceded for them, ensured that the Govt arranged for tickets for them to return, ensured supply of food to them for the remaining days and eventually saw them off home. Nearly a thousand workers were stopped in Srikakulam in AP and prevented from going to their home state Odisha. IFTU supported their struggle for going to Odisha and they succeeded in securing this.
Learning that construction workers were stuck in sites near Meerut without food and shelter, having no money as their contractors had run away, AIKMS leaders of the area were contacted who interceded with the local administration and ensured that all the workers of the two sites there were shifted to shelter homes by the administration and were provided with food and lodging there by the Govt. Similarly, learning that workers from UP were stuck in Silvasa without wages and rations, intervention has been made to the administration through a fraternal Trade Union and the matter of their return is being pursued.
A bitter fight with the administration and Haryana govt was fought in Panipat by the IFTU leaders there who submitted a list of over 4000 workers from Bengal and Bihar who worked as rickshaw pullers or in textile industry and who had no rations and no wages. Despite fighting for several days, approaching the police and the administration, there was no relief. The union then approached the High Court which did not heed the plea as the Govt stated that the detailed list was false and the workers had been provided rations. The petition was then moved in the Supreme Court which directed the High Court to hear the matter. Even then the High Court got involved in technicalities rather than coming down on the Govt. However some orders were issued, but just before the date the local administrator in a letter to the Union admitted the mistake of his officer. After the judgement, the Govt machinery moved to provide full rations to all those named by the Union.
Some workers from West Bengal were stranded in Karnataka.
A number of workers from MP and other states were stranded on the borders of MP with Gujarat and Maharashtra. Attempts were made through a variety of contacts to provide them with food and facilitate their going home. An organization from MP was also in touch on this issue.
Comrades from Odisha were in touch with migrants from Odisha in Surat and other areas in Gujarat and involved in building pressure on the state govt to demand that its workers be brought back to Odisha. Similarly most state committees were involved in identifying workers who were without rations and food especially at construction sites and in pursuing the authorities to provide them with the relief about which tall promises were being made. In many places, when it was found that govt machinery would just not move, rather than leaving the workers to hunger, it was attempted to secure relief through RWAs and other organizations who were involved in relief. In fact in many states, including Delhi, the experience was that even SDMs and police provided relief through such agencies rather than through government rations or funds.
The experience everywhere was that Govts and administrations had to be harassed and pursued to provide migrant workers and even workers living for years in slum areas but having only daily wage jobs and living as tenants, with relief material of any sort. Even now such efforts are on to contact the migrant workers as many of them have just reached the end of the tether and are desperate to get home.
All units have also intervened for cooked food or complete rations to unorganized sector workers who are essentially migrants but were trying to survive where they were till work started again. In many places our comrades successfully ensured at least part if not full payment of wages for March and April. Such specific reports are in from Delhi, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh especially, but comrades have intervened in all states where such problem arose. Full reports are awaited.