Hyderabad: Two hundred brick kiln workers from Odisha, working in kilns in Jadcherla, Karimnagar and other districts, were dumped by their employers on the Medchal highway on Thursday morning to find their way back to their homes. The workers had little children with them, some just infants, and spent a hot day sheltering under trees, waiting for trucks to take them to Odisha.
Another group of 50 workers was dumped outside the Secunderabad railway station and were told to buy their own tickets for Odisha. Nathuram U K, who was stranded at the station, said, “We were told to procure railway tickets, but when we came here, officials told us that there are no trains. We are going to the highway and will go home in trucks.”
The workers said they had finished their work at the kilns. About 50,000 families from Odisha come to Telangana in November every year to work in the brick kilns, and return ahead of the monsoon to Odisha.
Hemal, who along with 500 other workers was dropped on the highway on Wednesday morning, got on to a truck to go to Odisha. Having reached Visakhapatnam, he said, “There are about 100 of us on the truck. The others got into tempos and other trucks. We are together and we will reach our state soon.”
These people worked throughout the lockdown and their contractors assured them that trains would start running by the time they were ready to return home.
“The contractor and brick kiln owner arranged for five buses and sent 2,000 families to Odisha. After that, they were not willing to arrange any more buses. They told us we would be dropped on the highway and from there we had to fend for ourselves,” said M Nishar. He said they would have to pay Rs 2,000 per person to the truck drivers to travel home.
Another group is reportedly walking from Karimnagar to Odisha.
The group dropped on the Medchal highway comprises middle-aged men, women, and young mothers and is waiting in the scorching sun for some form of transport. Bhumi, the mother of a one-month-old boy, Bhoomeshwar, said, “The kiln owner does not need us now that the work is over. He is not willing to keep us here and asked us to go. We will not stay in a shelter as we want to go back home. We will wait for the trucks and go in them.”
They are not willing to venture into Secunderabad and Hyderabad as the police and local administration will take them to the shelters. Trees along the highway are their only shelter now.
Some non-government organisations have been monitoring highways since the last 15 days and distributing food, water and slippers to such workers. Every day, it is the same story as people are coming in droves and waiting for transport in the heat.
This is a seasonal migration which has taken an ugly turn due to the lockdown imposed by the central government since March 24.