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‘Our families want us to return home’

M. Soundariya Preetha
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UNSURE OF THEMSELVES:Workers from Assam at a manufacturing unit at Kalapatti in Coimbatore getting ready to go home on Saturday. —Photo: M. Periasamy.
UNSURE OF THEMSELVES:Workers from Assam at a manufacturing unit at Kalapatti in Coimbatore getting ready to go home on Saturday. —Photo: M. Periasamy.

The distance of 3,000 km between home and work has not mattered much to Babay and Biswajith who are employed in an engineering factory here. They are among the thousands of workers from North Eastern States employed in Coimbatore’s foundries, engineering industries, and hotels.

While Babay is working in Coimbatore for the last three years, Biswajith joined him from Bangalore six months ago. On Friday night, the two along with 25 other workers from Assam working in the engineering unit, decided to return home.

The journey from Coimbatore to Assam will be almost three days. “Our families want us to come back. We hear there is security for us in the train and buses,” says Babay.

“The situation back home is volatile. We do not know what is happening there. Most of us got married just a year or two back. Our family members want us to return. After going home, if we are sure that everything is safe and if the companies here are supportive we will return to work,” adds Biswajith.

However, these workers are unsure of what they will do for a job in their hometowns or when they will come back to the industries here.

The unit has workers from the northern and north eastern States. While those from Bihar and other northern States continue to work, almost 50 per cent of those from the north eastern States have decided to go back home.

They will get their weekly wages on Saturday and then leave. If about 25 people leave work without prior notice, it hits production.

Those from Assam are hard-working and do not mind working in the foundries for long hours. Despite efforts to convince the workers about their safety here and that their relatives are safe at home, a group of them have decided to leave, says the manager at the unit.

Following large number of people from these States leaving Bangalore and Chennai during the last three days, there is fear among the workers here too, says a hotel owner. They watch television and speak to their friends in other places over phone. The managements are assuring them that they are safe and that there is need for fear. Though there is no exodus, there are reports that some do not want to go out of the units to public places and some want to leave, according to the employers.

On Saturday, there were three trains to the North East from various destinations via Coimbatore and workers were seen leaving in batches. Scores of migrant workers from North East queued up at the Junction for boarding the unreserved coaches of the Chennai bound and the direct trains from Coimbatore. Some of them were on more than a month’s leave. “We just want to go home”, said one of them waiting to board the train. The State Police enquired the workers on why they were leaving and tried to convince them to stay back. The State Railway Police and the Railway Protection Force ensured orderliness at the platforms and ensured queue system for those getting into the general compartment. The RPF was providing security on board the trains.

In the rural areas of the district where a large number of migrant workers are employed in the poultry, textile and paper units, there is no panic or fear. Those from the north eastern States may not be much and work is going on as usual here, says a paper board unit owner.

Meanwhile, City Police have convened a meeting of migrant workers from North East on August 19 at the City Police office conference hall at 11 a.m. to reassure them that their safety would be ensured. In the event of any threat perception, the workers could call up the police control room by dialling 100 or 0422-2300970, the release said. Though the exit from Coimbatore was mainly through Chennai, the Coimbatore Railway officials have sent seven coaches detached from various trains to Chennai. The same would be used for operating specials to destinations in North East and the coaches are expected to return after ten days, a railway official said.

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