Amidst the turmoil that untold numbers of economic migrants are caught in because of the lockdown , the plight of a silent minority has gone unnoticed. Thousands of Gorkha and other Nepalese workers- from the watchman of the lane to the plantation labourer -are stranded across the country. Without work for months, they have very little money, with their savings depleting with each passing day.
In Maharashtra , a huge number of them are stuck in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, in the Konkan. Every year, they arrive during the mango harvest season and leave for Nepal as the season ends. Some also work in fishing or take up jobs at roadside eateries and restaurants. They say they have been coming to the Konkan for over 15 years and have never faced such hardship as now.
Demands have been made for special trains to ferry them back home. The administrations of both districts have initiated a process to list them, along with their contact details.
State must decide on train for Nepali migrants, says rlys
Around 50,000 Nepalese and Gorkha migrant workers arrive in the Konkan region to work in mango orchards or assist in fishing. They reach in September or October and leave by May or June. This year, only half of them arrived because of uncertainties in the fishing business,” said Jalal Kazi, an alphonso orchard owner in Jaitapur, Ratnagiri.
Bharat Das, a Nepalese migrant, said, “We pluck and pack mangoes. I want to leave but there are no trains to take us to the border of our country.” Demanding trains for workers like him, former MLA Bal Mane in a letter to the railways has put their number between 12,000 and 15,000 in Ratnagiri alone. The route of return starts with the Konkan Railway, and then, after changing tracks, to UP, from where they cross back into Nepal.
Konkan Railway’s chief PRO LK Verma said, “Based on the state government’s request, special trains are run. The state government pays for it. Hence, the state government has to decide on the Nepalese migrants’ issue.” Ratnagiri’s district information officer Prashant Daithankar and his Sindhudurg counterpart Hemant Chavhan said enrolment of the workers has started. “But it is at a nascent stage,” Daithankar said.