Patna: With the mass exodus of workers following India’s harsh lockdown badly impacting businesses, various companies are giving attractive offers to migrants in a bid to lure them back to work. Migrant workers say company owners have been making repeated phone calls to them and promising to provide air and train tickets, air-conditioned buses, a salary advance for two months and even increased wages.
Shaukart Ali, a migrant worker from Bihar’s Rohtas district, was pleasantly surprised when he got a call from a new number a couple of days back and picked up the call. “I was surprised to find the company owner on the other end. He requested me to return to work and even promised to provide me an air ticket and two-month salary advance,” said Ali who returned to his home along with several migrant workers in May after the government ran special trains for labourers.
Ali worked in a garment factory in Ambala town in Haryana. The mass exodus by the workers badly affected the company’s financial health but Ali is not in a rush to return to work not while COVID-19 cases are stillsurging.
Pramod Chaudhary is another migrant worker who gets repeated calls these days. He worked in a plywood factory in Gurugram in Haryana district but fled his home along with several workers after a lockdown was imposed to check the spread of the virus.
Air-conditioned train tickets
“My company owner has been promising to arrange for air-conditioned train tickets but I have not decided yet,” Chaudhary who hails from Makrain village in Rohtas district said. “Please return to work, brother,” company owner requested Chaudhary.
Sanjay Kumar, a migrant worker from Manikpur village from the same district, on the other hand, is being promised salary advance for two months and free accommodation and food for one month. The company has also promised to bear all the expenses of train travel if he comes with the family. Sanjay worked in a cotton mill in Surat city of Gujarat.
If the phone calls are not enough, many companies are even sending their managers and supervisors to hold direct talks with the migrant workers and convince them to return to duty. One of them is a steel company from Ballari town in southern Indian state of Karnataka, which has sent its supervisor to Rohtas district.
Reports said the company official recently visited several villages in the district and urged the workers who left the company after lockdown to return to work. The company official has promised to arrange for a special air-conditioned bus to carry them to their place of work.
“Several company workers returned to their homes after lockdown after which the factory got shut. They are experienced workers very much aware about the company works. So we are interested in getting them back to work. The factory will resume its operation soon,” company supervisor Umesh Chaudhary said.
A few weeks ago, Hyderabad-based Construction Company, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited, had brought back around 1,000 workers who had returned to Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh after lockdown. That happened after the company paid for their train tickets.
Several affluent farmers from Punjab and Haryana even sent special buses to carry migrant workers from Bihar to when they fled after lockdown. In several districts of Bihar, such as Muzaffarpur, Saharsa, Purnia, West Champaran, Sheohar and Sitamarhi, big farmers have sent luxury buses, cars and tickets for A/C trains to lure the workers after facing severe crisis of workers post lockdown. While some accepted the offers, many rejected, citing the kind of tortures they underwent at the places of work when the government enforced lockdown.
In Buxur district of Bihar, angry workers forced officials of a prominent cotton factory at Panipat in Haryana to flee their village, saying they no longer wanted to go outside their village and were happy with what they have. The company staff had come with at least five traveller minibuses to carry the labourers with them.
Around four million migrants have returned to the state after lockdown—while over 2.1 million returned by Shramik special trains, the rest came by hiring vehicles or walking on foot, covering a distance of more than a thousand kilometres under sweltering heat and living on paltry food. Many workers are now trying to start life afresh after losing jobs in view of the lockdown.