May 17, 2020

BIHAR: CPI(M) Stands with Migrant Workers Returning Home

Kumar Nishant

IT is well established that Bihar has a long history of migration of labourers in large numbers and the intensifying agrarian crisis has contributed to increased migration from the state to all parts of the  country and abroad. Soon after the announcement of the coronavirus lockdown, industries, factories and shops across the country were shut down and the migrant workers were forced to return to their state.
The workers have not been paid and all modes of transport were also stopped. Soon they ran out of money and rations. Given these dire circumstances, they were left with no choice except to return to their homes, thousands of miles away, on foot. While most of the migrant labourers belong to the age group of 18 to 40, many of them are below 18 too. Some of them have lost their lives trying to make this arduous journey homewards.
The helpline numbers launched by the Bihar government to guide the workers, have also not been reachable. Under these circumstances, political parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal and student, kisan and youth organisations have launched their helpline numbers to provide necessary help.
On behalf of the CPI(M) Bihar state committee, state secretary Awadhesh Kumar had written multiple letters to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, about the problems faced by common people, migrant workers and to stop police brutality in the name of imposition of lockdown.
Appreciating the steps taken by the Kerala government, the CPI(M) Bihar State Committee demanded to provide free rations to all irrespective of the availability of ration card. The party had also demanded quick transfer of Rs 7,500 to the needy, health insurance to both public and private healthcare staff, basic protective gear to the medical staff and to make available Covid-19 test kits at the testing centres.
Bihar state Kisan Sabha has also raised the issues of sugarcane farmers and demanded that their dues be paid so that they can survive this pandemic crisis. It’s now the harvest season in Bihar and if the ripen crops are not harvested, it will create further pauperisation of the peasantry and lead to large scale starvation deaths in the rural areas.
Bihar has failed so far to establish test centres even at the district level. Till date, only four test centres are working and in the wake of the large number of workers returning home, it is all the more necessary to test more people so that the chain of transmission is broken.
Bihar reported a large number of deaths due to hunger rather than Covid-19. An 11-year-old dalit boy died due to hunger in Ara district. Similar cases were reported from Madhubani, Gaya and other districts too. The graph of criminal activities, murder and cases of women harassment have increased rapidly in Bihar.
CPI(M) leader Jagdish Chandra Basu was murdered. Social activist Santosh Sharma of Begusarai was arrested on false allegation that he is violating the norms of lockdown and he was taken to the backyard of the police station where the police beat him black and blue leading to his death. In the same district, a boy was found hanging in the police station under mysterious conditions.
The Bihar government is grossly ill equipped to deal with the large scale reverse migration of Bihari workers. Those who have returned have been put in quarantine centres where they are getting neither proper food nor sanitised surroundings. Reports of fleeing from such centres are disturbing as it poses a challenging situation for the health workers to identify, isolate and treat infected people.
In addition to making attempts to stop the return of the migrant labourers to their homes, the Bihar government has also failed them by not criticising the Karnataka government for its brazen anti-worker attitude for not allowing the workers to leave the state. The state-wide movement of the CPI(M) and Left has forced the government to take certain steps to help the homebound workers and the suffering peasants.
The CPI(M) in Bihar has been actively assisting thousands of migrant workers through the helpline everyday. Party state secretary Awadhesh Kumar, Central Committee member Arun Kumar Mishra, state secretariat members Rampari, GS Singh, Binod Kumar, Party state prachar-prasar committee members Kumar Nishant, Manoj Kumar Chandrwansi, Ashok Mishra, president of Bihar state Khetihar Mazdoor Union Devendra Chaurasia and others are responding to each and every call, day and night.
At the local level, the Party carried out awareness campaigns about the epidemic and distributed masks, sanitizers, soaps. Apart from this, relief material is being distributed at various locations and community kitchens are being run by the Party members.
Comrades of Begusarai, Purnia, Madhubani, Saharsa, Darbhanga, Buxar, Samastipur, Supaul, Katihar, Chapra, Patna and other districts are rising up to the occasion in helping the needy people during the crisis.
At Jaynagar of Madhubani, a community kitchen has been running for the last 45 days under the leadership of Party state committee member and DYFI state secretary Shashi Bhushan Prasad. Similarly, transport union affiliated to CITU is also running community kitchens at Patna and Katihar respectively.
The response from the people to the activities taken up by the Party in the state as per the call given by the Central Committee  is encouraging as every district reported about the actions, right from the district to the grassroots level.  The all India protest call by mass organisations given on April 21, to oppose the apathetic response of Modi government to the miseries of the workers during the lockdown period, was very successful considering the participation and spread of the action programme while maintaining physical distancing.
The 150th anniversary of Com Lenin and May Day were also observed in most of the districts. Recently, Left parties including CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML), RSP and Forward Block have organised a protest on May 5 from 11am to 3pm and demanded that the government meets the travel expenses of the migrant workers through the PM Cares Fund and pays Rs 10,000 per month during the lockdown period along with provision of free rations and other essentials.
Bihar witnessed massive response from villages to districts and state headquarters. The state wide movement has forced the government to take certain steps to help the workers and the suffering peasants.  Chief minister Nitish Kumar announced that the state will pay the ticket charges and also give additional Rs 500 to the migrant workers coming back.
Following the guidelines of lockdown on May 1, Bihar state committee of Kisan Sabha and All India Agriculture Workers Union protested demanding free ration and other essentials to the needy, loan waiver to  farmers and agricultural workers.
On May 6, the CITU burnt effigies of Karnataka chief minister against the order to cancel the trains for migrant workers, at Patna, Begusarai, West Champaran, Samastipur. CPI(M) Bihar state committee also joined the protest.
On May 7, on the call of AIDWA and other women’s organisations, CPI(M) organised a protest action demanding the release of Safoora Zargar. It also demanded the arrest of BJP leader Kapil Mishra who made ugly comments on women.  A large number of women from all the sectors joined the protest from their homes holding handwritten posters in their hands. Rampari, vice president of AIDWA joined the protest at Patna. State joint secretaries of AIDWA, Sunita Sinha and Sarita Pandey led the protest in the state capital.