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Migrants Shocked as Their Bicycles Left During Lockdown in UP Auctioned

The Saharanpur district administration has auctioned 5,400 bicycles for Rs 21 lakh without ‘informing’ the workers.

Lucknow: Anil and six other migrant workers from Kopaganj, in Uttar Pradesh’s Mau district, decided to cycle around 1,000 km to reach their hometown during the first lockdown.

After reaching Saharanpur on April 11, however, they were quarantined at Radha Swami Satsang Bhawan for 14 days and asked to park their bicycles. They were provided token numbers for the bicycles as “written assurance” which they could use to collect them once the situation normalised.

Subsequently, they were asked to resume the journey on trains and buses arranged by the government to drop them “safely” to their destination. 

However, Anil is shocked to know that he would never get his bicycle, which he had been using to reach his factory in Ghaziabad for many years, for the Saharanpur district administration has auctioned 5,400 vehicles of migrant workers for around Rs 21 lakh.

Anil and his co-villager Rohit told Newsclick that the district administration never informed them about the auction. “Neither the Satsang Bhawan called us to take our bicycles back nor the Saharanpur administration informed us. They should have, at least, informed us before selling them. We had parked our bicycles on the condition that they would be returned to us,” Anil said.

When asked why they have not approached the administration to get their bicycles back, Anil said, “The travel expenses from Mau to Saharanpur are more than the cost of his bicycle and post-COVID-19, we are struggling to make ends meet. Therefore, it is pointless in borrowing money to travel more than 1,000 km for a bicycle.” 

During the pandemic-induced lockdown in early 2020, more than 25,000 migrant workers reached Saharanpur on bicycles while heading back to their native villages/towns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar from their workplaces in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Saharanpur is the gateway to Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Sadar Tehsildar Nitin Rajput said that “14,000 migrants took their bicycles back while more than 5,400 vehicles were gathering rust”. After waiting two years, these cycles were “auctioned for Rs 21,20,000”, he added.

Saharanpur district magistrate Akhilesh Singh told the media that the administration had noted the “contact details of all the migrants from the office-bearers of Radha Swami Satsang Bhawan”. Labourers who hadn’t collected their bicycles were called several times, he claimed.

Many of them refused to collect their vehicles while some expressed helplessness citing travel expenses were more than the cost of the cycles,” Singh further claimed adding that the cycles were sold for Rs 21,00,000 but the available amount is Rs 19,00,000. “The amount received from the bicycle auction has been sent to the government.”

However, Sunil, a native of Mihinpurwa village, Bahraich, and another nine workers who were also stopped in Saharanpur and asked to park their bicycles contradicted Singh. “At least, once they could have asked us before selling the bicycles. The least that they can do now is to show some generosity by giving us the amount received from the auction,” Sunil, who owned a new bicycle, told Newsclick.

Singh, however, said that the administration would ask the migrants to provide their bank account numbers so that the money can be transferred to them.

Deepak, who was employed with a factory in Nangloi, Delhi, and travelled back to Gorakhpur with his friends, is also disappointed. “The administration could not even keep its promise of handing over our bicycles back,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mavid Ali, a contractor who bought the bicycles, said that he has no option but to sell them to scrap dealers as most of them are rusted.

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