Patna: Thousands of migrant workears who have arrived in Bihar were “deeply hurt” and “angry” with insensitivity of the NDA government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar towards them that has come to the fore once again. After blaming them last month for the spread of COVID-19 in the state, Bihar Police headquarter in its official circular has warned all district police chiefs of a “likely spurt” in crime due to the influx of migrant workers back home.
After opposition leaders, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, attacked the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for its anti-migrant workers approach, the state police were forced to withdraw the circular on Friday. But this development has come as a big embarrassment for CM Kumar, an ally of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ahead of the Assembly elections to be held later this year.
“Are we criminals that the Bihar Police have warned of a likely spurt in crime following our return to our home state? This has shocked and deeply hurt us; our own police suspect that we may be involved in crime because we have been rendered jobless due to the lockdown,” said Lal Babu, a migrant worker from Aurangabad district, who has returned from Gujarat where he worked at a garment factory.
Another migrant worker, Satendar Yadav, a resident of a village under Pali block in Patna district, said, “If our own police treat us like this, what can we expect from others? We have returned to our home. This is our right. We have not committed any crime.”
Similarly, Mukesh Kumar, Mozaffar Ansari, Rameshwar Paswan and Sona Manjhi, all migrant workers ,expressed their dejection over the state police’s attempt to blame them for any potential spurt in crime. “First, we were forced to leave our village to earn livelihood outside the state and now, we have been forced to come back [owing to the job loss]. And the police now suspect we will be involved in crimes,” said Mukesh Kumar, who has returned from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu to his native village under Barachatti block in Gaya district.
The content of the letter issued by ADG (law and order) Amit Kumar stated: “Despite the government’s best efforts, there is no possibility that all migrant workers will get suitable jobs. In view of it, they may resort to unlawful activities to provide for their families, creating law and order issues.”
According to top officials of the state government, more than 30 lakh migrant workers had returned to Bihar from other states over the last month due to the lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19. The first batch of stranded migrant workers arrived in Bihar on May 2.
Interestingly, three days ago, CM Kumar had objected to using the term ‘migrant’ for workers. “People going from one state to the other are being called 'pravasi' (migrant). Why? This is one country, there is one nationality. A person going from one place to the other in the country isn't a migrant. If they go outside the country ,then they are," he said .
Following the circular, RJD, Congress and Left parties have targeted the NDA government and stated that this has unveiled the government’s real face. “This is nothing but an insult to the migrant workers, who are our own brothers and sisters. First, the government refused to bring them back and now it has blamed them for a likely spurt in crime and law and order problems, said,” Tejashwi. He also tore the letter at a press meet to express his protest. Soon after, the police headquarters not only withdrew the letter, but also clarified that it was issued by mistake.
“If such a letter was issued, he [CM Kumar] must be aware of it. This was not possible without his nod,” claimed Yadav.
Congress state president Madan Mohan Jha and party spokesperson Prem Chand Mishra also attacked the state government and said that the letter has exposed the anti-migrant workers mindset of the NDA government.
CPI(ML) leader Dhirendra Jha said that the NDA government has failed to help migrant workers and now, it is trying to paint them as criminals. “This has created a strong reaction among migrant workers. We will mobilise them to protest against the government’s move to blame them for a spurt in crime.”
CPI(M) state president Avadesh Kumar, too, said that the workers will stage a protest.
Also read: Police Violence Is Enabled by ‘Liberal’ Politicians’ Massive Spending