BengalLockdown Hunger

Young Bengali Migrant labourer commits suicide in Kerala after train ticket was cancelled for the second time

Special arrangement being made to bring back the dead body of Asif Iqbal Mondal to his home town makes his family question why the government made no efforts to bring back for migrant workers to their homes for this long

Kolkata: Twenty-two-year-old Asif Iqbal Mondal, had been restless to return home, from Kodanad, in Kerala’s Ernakulum district, where he had gone to work at a brick kiln about six months back, only to never return.

A depressed Asif on Saturday evening chose to hang himself at a mango orchard in Kodanad. During the last telephonic conversation that he had had with his mother on Friday, was about the hardship that he was facing to come back home. Twice he had booked his tickets from Kerala to his hometown in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district and twice it was cancelled.

India has been under lockdown since March 24, which has been extended thrice. Since the  lockdown was announced, migrant workers across India have been the worst affected, as millions of them got stuck outside their native states, with no proper resource.

“Asif was so depressed when he last talked to us. He was worried about being able to return to his home alive. Out of work, with no money in hand he told us, how helpless and lonely he was feeling in Kerala,” said Asarul Biswas, uncle of Asif.

He revealed Asif, the eldest among his siblings had gone to Kerala in hope of a better earning.

“He was the eldest son of my brother, who is working on farms of others and a small patch of land of his own. Facing hardship in earning a decent earning, Asif moved to Kerala. His contract was almost over and he was about to return home when the lockdown took place. These forty-seven days of uncertainty killed my nephew,” said Asarul.

According to his family members, the deceased migrant worker had run out of money and the food that he was being provided by social workers were too little to survive. “He was too upset with the hardship that he was having to face. He even had to borrow money from another brother of his, who works in another district in Kerala,” revealed Anwarul, one of Asif’s cousin, who works as a farmer in Murshidabad.

Reacting to Asif’s untimely and unnatural death, Samirul Islam, president of Bangla Sanskriti Mancha said, “Another pathetic death of migrant labour, but who cares? One poor migrant worker sacrificed his life pure because of the callousness of the state. Asif, a migrant worker from Domkol, Murshidabad was in Kerala for the last 6 months for work. He even purchased a ticket for return but due to uncertainty of Central Government’s decision to schedule trains for migrant labours, he committed suicide yesterday. On behalf of Bangla Sanskriti Mancha strongly condemn this incident and demand to government for their explanation of such unwanted incident.”

Islam maintained that the government has played a callous role when it came to getting migrant labours back to their states. “From a long time, we have been asking for a proper plan for the return and rehabilitation of migrant workers but probably the govt was too busy to in taking care of the rich people stranded in international shores. And had no time to look into the issue of the migrant workers. We also demand economic compensation to his family member and also for the announcement of a special economic package for migrant labours immediately.”

When asked about the centre blaming the West Bengal government for not cooperating with the centre in getting its people back, he said, “State has no role in this (getting back the migrant labours). The state can’t overrule the centre. Petty politics is being played at the expense of these labours.”

Asif’s suicide, come a few days after several tired migrant labours, were crushed to death by a goods train, as they fell asleep on the railway track. Ironically, like those killed during the railway accident, a special arrangement is being made by the government bring back Asif’s dead body his home in Shiropara, in Domkol area of Murshidabad.

“He got no train to come back home, now special arrangements have been made to bring him back. His brother will be brisnging back his remains. Had the government made any train available earlier, Asif would have been home alive,” sobbed Anwarul.

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