The migrant workers have been kept in a ‘dharamshala’ in Tinsukia, Assam. They claimed that they ran out of money and didn’t receive any free ration from the government Credit: EastMojo image

Tinsukia: The Tinsukia police on Monday night stopped 51 migrant workers from fleeing Assam’s Tinsukia town in a truck meant for transportation of commodities, the first such attempted case of exodus detected in the state amid the national lockdown over COVID-19 pandemic.

Talking to EastMojo, Munna Kumar Rai, a migrant worker, said, “We were working as daily-wage workers at the railway yard in Tinsukia for years. However, ever since lockdown started, we went out of work, and gradually our pockets started running dry.”

“With little money left and hardly any government support, we decided to leave for our native village in Chapra district of Bihar,” said Rai, adding, “The driver of the truck was from a village next to ours. “Initially, he refused to take us because of the lockdown, but hearing our plight,” he agreed.

“We paid the driver Rs 400 per person towards fuel expenses,” he added.

“We have not received any free ration from the government after lockdown,” another migrant worker — a part of the group all residing under ward number 4 in Tinsukia town, added.

Refuting the allegations, circle officer Sanjiv Phukan said that the workers did not raise any food or ration issues before us.

“In the statement given before police and executive magistrate, the workers said that they were desperate to go to their native village for harvesting,” said Phukan, adding, “However, we will look into the allegations and verify whether their names were included in the distribution of free ration. Corrective measures will follow if allegations are found out to be true.”

Phukan said that immediately upon receiving information, a team of administration and senior police officials along with a medical team rushed to the spot. “All 51 workers were screened and taken to a dharamshala for accommodation after finding them asymptomatic. They have been provided with meals and will be released tomorrow,” he said.

There are 2,737 registered migrant workers in Tinsukia district.

Talking to EastMojo, additional superintendent of Tinsukia police Ripunjoy Kakoti said that on Saturday night, the Panitola police intercepted a truck transporting 51 migrant workers during a random checking at a check-post on national highway 37. “A case has been registered and investigation has begun,” he said.

“We have arrested the driver M Rai,” said in-charge of Panitola police outpost Bishnu Parsai, adding that the owner of the truck, Bikash Rai, has been summoned for interrogation.

Parsia said that the driver was supposed to take them to Guwahati from where they would head to Bihar in a different vehicle.

Earlier, reports had surfaced of an attempt of similar transportation of migrant workers in an out-bound truck. However, this is the first such instance in Assam where the police have intercepted a truck and stopped migrant workers from fleeing the state.

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