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Bihar Migrants Workers Forced to Return After Holi, Give LS Polls a Miss

“What can we do, we are illiterate and working outside the state for livelihood? There is no facility for poor like us to come back to vote,” a migrant worker said.
Bihar Migrants Workers Forced to Return After Holi, Give LS Polls a Miss

Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : The Indian Express

With the first of seven phased Lok Sabha polls still twenty days away, Mahendra Yadav and Arjun Prasad, both migrant workers from Bihar, were forced to plan their return after Holi and are set to miss their chance to cast their votes.

A day after celebrating Holi, Mahendra and his co-villager Arjun reached the Patna railway station to catch a train to return to their places of work, as they cannot wait for over two weeks to exercise their rights in their native village Rampur in Aurangabad district.

“We wanted to vote in elections but polls are away. We have no option other than to return to earn our livelihood,” Mahendra, who works in a steel factory in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu said. Arjun, who works in a garment factory in Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, said he was eager to cast vote to his favourite party candidate. “I was interested to contribute to strengthen democracy,” he told NewsClick.

Both are school drop-outs and skilled workers, are two of thousands of migrant workers, who work all over the country and had returned to their homes in Bihar to celebrate Holi. Some workers are already on their way of return, others will return in the next two to three days. Most of them will return by the last week of March, giving a miss to the polls.

Take for instance, Krishna Kumar and Sakti Paswan, both natives of Ghoshi in Jehanabad district, who will return by next Sunday. “We are on a week-long leave and will return soon. We will not be in the village to cast our vote. What can we do, we are illiterate and working outside the state for livelihood? There is no facility for poor like us to come back to vote,” Krishna said.

Also Read: ‘How Do we Feed Our Families Now?’ ask Migrant Workers Fleeing Gujarat

Mahendra, Arjun, Krishna and Shakti said their names are at the voter list of their respective village only. “We are workers, today we are at one place and tomorrow at another place. So, our name is only in the voter list of our permanent address, which is our village,” Shakti, who works in a factory in Haryana, said.

Most of the long route trains running from Bihar were on Friday packed with thousands of migrant workers returning to their places of work across the country a day after Holi.

"After Holi, most of the railway stations in the state were witnessing a heavy rush of passengers. There is virtually no place available in long distance trains since Friday till the last week of March as mostly migrant workers are returning to their work places outside the state after Holi," East Central Railway's (ECR) chief public relations officer Rajesh Kumar told NewsClick.

According to railway officials, thousands of migrant workers had arrived in the state for Holi in the last one week.

Experts say that it is difficult to estimate the number of labourers from Bihar working in various parts of India. Most of the Bihari labour concentration is said to be in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Assam, Rajasthan and Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune also have a sizeable number of people from Bihar.

The state government, however, has no official records. It is estimated that more than 1 crore migrants from Bihar are permanently working outside. Besides, there are thousands who work as seasonal migrants. While majority of the migrants from Bihar work in farms, factories, construction and infrastructure sites and do many other jobs, many are also skilled professionals.

Poll process began early this week and nomination papers are being filed by candidates for the first two phases of the seven phased polls in the state for 40 Lok Sabha seats.

Read More: Elections 2019: RJD to Contest 20 Seats, Congress Gets 9 in Bihar Grand Alliance

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