Bengaluru

COVID-19: Lack of accommodation, jobs and hunger force migrants onto pavements

Migrant workers from Bihar waiting in front of the Neraluru Grama Panchayat office on Wednesday in a bid to secure permission to leave Bengaluru.

Migrant workers from Bihar waiting in front of the Neraluru Grama Panchayat office on Wednesday in a bid to secure permission to leave Bengaluru.   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

The police commissioner's order to file FIRs against landlords evicting tenants during lockdown has had little impact on the ground

An increasing number of migrants are taking to sleeping on pavements or in makeshift camps driven by the lack of jobs, hunger and homelessness. Government measures, such as housing them in temporary shelters and in BIEC for a few days before shutting it down, has failed to solve the problem.

Contrary to popular perception, a large section of migrant labourers continue to be jobless. Thousands of them are employed in several non-construction sectors – in hotels, malls, as street vendors – none of which are open yet. With no money to pay rent, they have been evicted by landlords.

“The landlord evicted 20 of us from a room for non-payment of rent. He had given us a deadline of May 5. After that, he cut water and power supply,” said Satyam Kumar, a mason from Bihar who was residing in Sudhamanagar.

The police commissioner's order to file FIRs against landlords evicting tenants during lockdown has had little impact on the ground.

While the construction sector is slowly rebooting, people engaged in non-civil work, such as carpentry, painting, plumbing, find themselves jobless.

“We mostly stay on site and move to a new project once work is completed. Our engagement with projects is for a short duration. While we continued to work during the lockdown on the project we were engaged in, once our work was completed, we had to move out of that site. But we are not getting new projects, which has rendered us homeless,” explained Karim Laskar, a carpenter from West Bengal.

Many allege that their contractors have warned them that they won’t be assigned to new projects unless they commit to remaining in Bengaluru till Dasara.

“The contractor we were working for threw us out of the accommodation he had provided when we refused to promise not to go home. He did not even pay us our dues,” said Sanjay Yadav, a mason from Bihar, who set up camp outside Varthur Police Station a week ago waiting for a train.

Food a concern

With lockdown easing and government trying to restart economic activity, relief that was being provided to the poor seems to have mostly stopped. The civic body distributed ration kits that would last a family for a fortnight twice. But last kit provided by the civic body got over two weeks ago, and there has been no third round.

Relief from even civil society seems to have reduced. “Our rations ran out two weeks ago and help is not coming by. We got some money transferred from our village. But now even they have run out of money,” said Mohammed Asgar, 45, from Sarangpur district in Uttar Pradesh.

"Most of those camping near police stations are not there just to be put on trains. They are also there for three meals a day that are being provided at police stations,” said a senior official.

Putta Obala Reddy, inspector, Varthur Police, said, “They have an amazing communication network among themselves. Once BIEC was closed, within hours of us starting to register people at our police station, thousands descended here and started camping at a nearby market,” he said.

Police are turning marriage halls across the city into temporary shelters to house those rendered homeless. However, labourers are growing restless by the day and demanding that they be allowed to walk home as seats on trains are hard to come by.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 10:18:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/covid-19-lack-of-accommodation-jobs-and-hunger-force-migrants-onto-pavements/article31643674.ece

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