While authorities claim that the situation is under control, the panic among daily-wage earners from the north-east refuses to subside. As the exodus continues, labourers worry about families back home, and their future that hangs in the balance.
An investigation has been launched into the various SMSs that generated panic and might have contributed to the exodus of over 2,500 northeastern workers from the State, Commissioner of Police J.K. Tripathy said on Saturday. He however categorically stated that the situation was under control and there was nothing to panic about.
“We are tracking the messages and soon, we will find those who generated them. They will be strongly dealt with,” he added. Since most of the messages seem to have their origins in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, it will be difficult but can be done over a couple of days, said a senior police official. The three help lines launched by the police have been dealing with enquiries, most of which have been to know “if the situation is normal.”
Since nobody has complained about threat messages, we are looking into the kind and number of bulk messages sent in the last few days, the official said.
Fear continues to haunt most workers. Those who chose to remain in the city are still concerned about the situation of their families back home. “The city is safe but I have lived in Bangalore too for three years earlier, it was so safe then,” says Nving Kemic, a worker from Sikkim who works at a salon in Adyar here. A group of men from Mangalore who were at Central to leave for Guwahati by the 10 p.m. train said they had come to Chennai as they had no direct train from Mangalore to Guwahati. “We can be attacked here or our families can be in trouble. There are messages that things are getting worse back home, so we just want to be with families,” said Rabinder Singh.
Police personnel deployed at the Central Railway station said that on Saturday morning, before the last of three trains arrived at 6 a.m., the crowds had to be managed using barricades.
Employers too were on their toes on Saturday trying to pacify the community. Lenin, who manages the outlets of a restaurant at Teynampet that has nearly 50 workers from the northeastern States said, “Many of them are thinking of leaving but we tried to make them understand that they are safe here. We are as much dependent on them as they are on us.”
Many showrooms at Express Avenue Mall recorded low employee attendance. Managers of Nike, Levis, Reebok and many others had visited their showrooms and the rooms of many workers. “We would have been more relaxed had the police or some politician come to assure us the same thing,” said Mark, who hails from Manipur. He and his three sisters work in different showrooms in the mall. One of them, Krigi, who plans to leave soon, said “Our families send us here so that we get jobs and become independent.” When asked if she is worried about her livelihood, she says, “Even when we come here, we spend many months shifting jobs. I might start a small business there, or come back here, after January.”
An Assamese migrant Debru, however, has decided to stay even as many of his friends have left the city. A security guard at a building here, he says his family is completely dependent on the Rs 8000 that he sends via money order every month. “I am not here to grab land or own a house. I will make some money for three years and go back to my wife and children."