The author: Raakhi Jagga
| Ludhiana |

Update : 6. June 2020 12:39:51

Agricultural machinery is beginning to be transported to migrant workers from Punjab who were met on Friday by farmers from the village of Chananwal in Barnale. (express photo)

After the countdown for rice cultivation in Punjab had already started, two buses with an initial load of 40 migrant workers travelled to Barnala on Friday, where the residents greeted the workers with garlands. Later, the 40 were quarantined in the chimney chambers of several farms. They’ll be tested for coronaviruses on Saturday. This marked the beginning of the return of migrant workers to Punjab to work on a farm, while the migration continued to their homeland.

On Friday, the industry also said it was ready to offer free tickets to migrants to return to their units for work.

The two buses to Baranla were organised by the trade union group Bharti Kisan (Lahoval) in the region, sharing 50 percent of the price of the farm ticket between migrants and holidaymakers.

These workers returned from Pilibhit to UP and from Motihari to Bihar. For Bihar, we spent 1.20 lakh on the bus, while for the employees of UP Rs. 65,000. Of this amount, 50% is paid by the employees and the rest by us, because we have to transplant the rice. These workers came to the villages of Chananwal, Chinival and Kaire. They’ve been coming to our villages for years, so they’re like a family to us. We accepted Agent Barnal’s permission and sent buses from Barnal to bring back the workers, said Jaghsir Singh Sira, president of the BKU (Lahoval), Barnal’s unit.

He added: Another 75 buses will be sent to UP and Bihar to bring back our employees, so we can solve the problem of labour shortage.

said Jaghsir, a native of the village of Chinival: We put the Dharnas in Barnale to get this permission. Our work in Bihar and UP wasn’t enough, so they came back too desperate.

Dr. G.B. Singh, a civil surgeon in Barnala, said the workers are in the villages and we will test them tomorrow. But so far everything is asymptomatic.

Regarding plans to send more buses, Jagmohan Singh, chairman of the BKU (Dakanda), said: Each district has asked the farmers to fill in the holes they have made to bring back workers, and many farmers do so.
added Jagseer: The local labour force cannot meet our needs, because in my village 4,500 hectares have to be transplanted and we only have 150 workers, hence the dependence of the workers of the UP in Bihar. They also demanded compensation from Rs. 6,500 per acre, while work in Rs. 4,500 per acre was agreed. Last year, migrant workers took 2,500 rupees per hectare from us. The costs for transplanting one hectare will increase this season.

Meanwhile, even the industry is desperately trying to get its workers back, said Tarun Bawa Jain, president of the Bahadurke Dyers’ Association: In our industry more than 40,000 employees work in different departments and we don’t even have 5,000 employees yet. Most of them are under contract, and we have now told the contractor who hires them for us that we can pay their tickets to pick them up. The staff is satisfied with this offer and we hope they will come back in about ten days, as few trains to UP or Bihar have started yet. We also reimburse local transport and food costs during the trip, these costs will not cost us more than Rs. 2000 per employee. We told them that we can transfer that money to their accounts because we need employees and they need work.

Most of the dyers came back in March and want to come back now. Some came back last month, and now their employers want them back.

said Rahul Abuja, president of the CIA in Punjab: I’ve heard that a number of units are willing to pay for their employees’ train tickets. It’s a mutual agreement. We started receiving orders, but we have a small staff. The devices must be in operation.

said DS Chawla, president of the United Cycles Parts and Manufacturers Association (UCPMA): Yes, only a few units take such measures separately, but we have also asked the Punjab Minister for Industry to help us bring the workers back when he goes to Ludhiana on Thursday.

Punjab Industry Minister Sander Sham Arora told industry representatives that the Punjab government had asked the central government to provide trains for returning workers.

Meanwhile, about 5.45 lahs of the workers have already left for UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jarkhand, while about 18 lahs have registered to return. In addition, 20,000 people have registered with UP to return to Punjab, while 12,000 people want to return to Punjab from Bihar, according to the government of Punjab.

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