Cops, civic officials try to dispel rumour as migrant workers ‘start leaving Surat’

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Surat covid-19 newsSurat city, which has been reporting over 400 cases in a single day since this week, has made a seven-day quarantine compulsory for those coming in from other states(file)

TO AVOID a panic-like situation among migrants after the city imposed strict curbs following a recent rise in Covid-19 cases, the Surat city police has been deployed at labour colonies to dispel rumours.

On Monday evening, when officials of Pandesara police station reached Ganeshnagar society in the city, it found people trying to board onto 10 buses parked in the area, with most willing to pay a higher fare to return to their native states.

“We talked to the passengers and they told us that they are going back to their native place to celebrate Holi and attend marriages of their relatives. Though it is a routine during the festival, we have started working on ways to create awareness among the migrant workers. We are sending our police teams to different factories, where policemen
explain to labourers that there is nothing to worry about and no lockdown will be imposed in the coming days,” Pandesarea police inspector A P Chaudhary said.

Surat city, which has been reporting over 400 cases in a single day since this week, has made a seven-day quarantine compulsory for those coming in from other states.

The Surat Municipal Corporation has also reduced the work hour at textile factories on weekdays and has asked them to remain closed on weekends.

Sachin Industrial Cooperative Society leader Mahendra Ramolia said, “There was rumour earlier (about a possible lockdown) but now people have started to understand. There are 2,500 factories in the Sachin area and we have sent messages to the contractors and factory owners to create awareness among workers that this time there will be no lockdown and everyone is safe here. I have got over hundred labourers working in my firm and of them around 20 have left for their native places to celebrate Holi. These workers, however, had intimated me last month itself and also booked their tickets.”

Textile workers usually leave for their home states a week before Holi and return in a month’s time, said Yujuvendra Dubey, a social worker who runs a Hindi-medium school.

On March 20, BJP state president CR Paatil, who belongs to Surat, had, in a statement, assured that Surat was safe and that people should not believe any rumours. Paatil termed talks of a lockdown as “mere rumour”, and appealed that no labourer should leave the state.

“The Gujarat government and municipal corporations are more competent to prevent further infections. It has come to our notice that in Surat city, some notorious people are creating fear among the labourers in the industrial areas, and putting pressure on them to go back to their native places. It is not like that, as Surat is safe,” Paatil had said in the release.

BJP councillor from ward number 29, Banshi Yadav, said, “Earlier luxury buses were seen standing outside the city, but since the last two days they are seen in the residential areas. These buses are carrying passengers from Surat to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. We have come to know that the travel operators are spreading rumours and sending their agents to different residential societies in the Pandesara area, which is dominated by migrant workers of UP, Bihar and other states, working mostly in textile factories. These agents tell them that after a few days, lockdown will be imposed in the city. We are making all our efforts to stop such migration.”

Yadav alleged that after the police were stationed in Ganeshnagar, the bus operators had made arrangements for autorickshaws to bring labourers from the Ganeshnagar area to the Sachin area, where the buses are parked.
“The travel fare from Surat to UP is around Rs 800 to 900, but these bus operators are charging migrant workers Rs 2,000. For a journey to Bihar, they are charging Rs 2,500,” Yadav said.

BJP councillor from Pandesara ward Reena Singh Rajput’s husband Ajit said, “Since the last two days, we are roaming in different parts of Sachin and Pandesara to stop migrant workers from returning to their native places. While every year, during Holi, they visit their native places, the rumours about a possible lockdown had an effect the migrant population. Many have already left and more are preparing to leave. Now, along with the local area ward presidents, we are visiting the labour colonies to assure migrants that Surat city is safe.”

The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) leaders had Wednesday handed over a memorandum to Surat District Collector Dr Dhaval Patel, requesting him to take proactive steps to prevent migration of labourers from different industries in Surat city.

General Secretary INTUC, Kamran Usmani, in the memorandum said, “Since the last few days, there is a rise seen in the number of positive cases of corona in Surat city, which is dangerous. Due to such rise, different restrictions have been laid by the police, and municipal authorities. Such restrictions had left a fearful effect on the labourers working in the industries and they are afraid a lockdown would be imposed again. Keeping this in mind, the migrant workers, hailing from UP and Bihar, are leaving Surat city with their families.”

They urged that the two-day closure of the textile trading market should be reduced to one day, and the market should remain open on Monday.

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