Thursday, May 28, 2020

Farmer puts workers on flight after long wait to catch train

New Delhi: They had only dreamt of travelling in a plane and couldn’t have imagined that it would happen in the midst of a nightmare.

They were stuck in a mushroom farm at Tigipur village in north Delhi since March when they couldn’t make the annual trip to their homes in Samastipur district of Bihar because of the sudden lockdown. On Wednesday night, these 10 migrant workers were preparing to catch a 6am Indigo flight to Patna on Thursday, thanks to the farm owner, Pappan Singh Gahlot.
After watching thousands of migrant workers across the country – who had lost their jobs due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown - struggling to return to their villages in the absence of public transport and even getting killed in the process, Gahlot decided he would not let his men suffer like that.

The workers first registered themselves on the government portal for a seat on a special Shramik Express but didn’t get a response. Even as migrant workers across the city were queuing up under the scorching sun to register for the special trains, the government decided to resume domestic flights. And Gahlot too made a decision with the support of his wife, daughter and brother – his workers would be flying to Patna.

“My workers are like my family. They are all very old employees and have been working at my farm for several years with their families away in the villages. The migrants in Delhi and other parts of the country have been returning to their villages in inhuman conditions. I did not want my workers to face the same challenges,” said Gahlot. “I read so many reports of accidents on the highway. It disturbed me. My workers deserve respect. I could not have allowed to let them go like this.”

He said 48 labourers work on his 2.5-acre farm between August and March when mushrooms are grown. Every year, they leave in March for their villages and come back in August. This year, too, except for these unlucky 10, everyone else had gone back when the lockdown was announced. They stayed on the farm, waiting, with Gahlot providing them food and all amenities.

Now, they will be the first ones from their village to fly. “We didn’t have any problem in the past two months. When the trains started, we registered our names but never got any response. This is when our employer told us he would send us back by air,” said Naveen Ram, whose son, Aditya, was just three months old when he came to Delhi last year. His father, Lakhinder, has been working for Gahlot for 27 years and he for a decade now. “Our families are overjoyed,” he said.
28/05/20 Atul Mathur/Times of India
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