Ahead Of Bihar Assembly Polls, Migrant Labourers Upset With Nitish Kumar

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Ahead Of Bihar Assembly Polls, Migrant Labourers  Upset With Nitish Kumar

Leaders of Nitish Kumar's JDU say it was a "blunder" to allow other states to pay for the people.


Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, blamed so far by the opposition for what they say is the mishandling of the migrants issue, now has a group of critics who demand to be taken more seriously. The migrants are no longer pleased with the Chief Minister, who was once dubbed "Sushashan babu" (Mr Good Governance), and they say they will make their displeasure known where it counts -- the ballot box. Bihar goes to polls in October-November, in which Mr Kumar and his ally, the BJP will seek another term.

NDTV spoke some of the 30 lakh migrant labourers, who have so far returned to the state. Some of them blame the Chief Minister for failing to create jobs in the state, which they say, made it necessary for them to go elsewhere in the first place.

Mr Kumar has been ruling the state since 2005 and he has been at the helm for 14 years, despite his political twists and turns.

"Had we got employment opportunity here, we would never have migrated to any other place," said Suraj Kumar, who used to work at a zari factory in Surat, and is now at a quarantine centre in Sonepur.

The 36-year-old made his way back after his work place saw several clashes among migrants and the local administration. Gujarat is one of the states which refused to pay train fare for migrants.

"Our troubles were compounded by the fact that our own Chief Minister, Nitish-ji, kept creating hurdles to delay our return," he said.

His co-worker Upendra elaborated. Nitish Kumar, he said, got the train stopped in in March. "Other Chief Ministers, like Yogi-ji (Uttar Pradesh Chief Minster Yogi Adityanath) kept trying to bring people back. But we were left at the mercy of the local administration".

Even their tickets, he said, were finally purchased by local Congress workers.

Vikas Kumar, who returned from Delhi where he was working as mason, said, "Nitish Kumar didn't do anything and we were forced to make our own arrangements".

He is angry that the Bihar government not only refused to pay the railways, but ordered that unless a migrant worker spent 14 days in quarantine, he would not be reimbursed for his ticket or receive the promised Rs 500.

"Nitish Kumar left us at the mercy of the gods. The Punjab government paid for our train fare and food," said Babloo, who came back from Punjab's Hoshiarpur and is now at the same quarantine centre.

Most of the migrants appear to be upset with the Chief Minister over his halting of the trains in March and reluctance to bring back stranded students from Rajasthan's Kota. His letters to several state governments, expressing inability to pay for trains made matters worse.

Leaders of the ruling Janata Dal United concede that it was a "blunder to allow states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana pay for our people".

The other big factor going against Nitish Kumar is the surge in new cases -- 75 per cent of which are migrants.

Mr Kumar has tried to defend himself in interactions with party workers, saying he was just being cautious. He said he was just monitoring the situation and realising that migrants might be in financial trouble, allotted a sum of Rs 1,000 per head, which was transferred to over 20 lakh migrant workers.

"Even in quarantine camp, all care was taken care of and we spent Rs 5,300 per person. So far, more than 15 lakh people stayed in these camps," he has said.

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