Lockdown: Corruption aboard Shramik trains as touts book berths for the rich wanting holiday in hometowns

Updated: May 22, 2020, 08:06 IST | Shirish Vaktania | Mumbai

Police find people with homes, cars and good jobs in Mumbai are applying for Shramik berths by paying off designated middlemen

The child of a migrant worker breaks his fast while waiting for his train at CSMT on Thursday. Pic/Ashish Raje
The child of a migrant worker breaks his fast while waiting for his train at CSMT on Thursday. Pic/Ashish Raje

DURING their struggle to send lakhs of daily-wagers home, police have come across a group of people taking advantage of the labourers' distressing situation. A man from Sakinaka, with the help of insiders from the labour community, has been making money by sending his acquaintances, who pretend to be migrants, to their hometowns for vacations.

THE Sakinaka police have arrested one Madanlal Yadav, who lives in Kajupada at Sakinaka, Andheri East, and has a furniture business, and are looking for his absconding accomplice Panas Yadav. Police busted the racket involving the group leaders assigned for the area after conducting a random check of the people being sent to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday.

Police said they will also question the group leaders in charge of verifying the details of the migrant labourers who had registered to travel via Shramik Special trains and ferrying them to the station on the day of the journey.

On Wednesday, Sakinaka police called one of the group leaders but couldn't reach him, so they contacted another migrant worker who was on the list to travel and learnt that he had already gone home. They then called some of the others on the list and found out that many of them are already in their hometowns.

Charged Rs 1,100 each

The police officers then went to check the group of 40 people while they were preparing to leave Sakinaka to board the train. On cross checking the details with their ID cards, the officers found that 18 of them were not migrants. "Each person was charged Rs 1,100 by Madanlal. We are also recovering the list of people who have already reached their hometown," senior Inspector Kishor Sawant said.

City police send thousands of migrant workers home daily. File pic/ Anurag Ahire
City police send thousands of migrant workers home daily. File pic/ Anurag Ahire

Another investigation officer said, "Madanlal revealed that the group leaders [Sakinaka] have sent more than 150 people to their villages. The accused also sent many non-migrants people to UP who submitted their ration card or election card as proof. We are also checking the list."

Told to impersonate migrant

During investigation, police found that Madanlal would ask the group leaders to send the names of the workers who had registered to take the train but had later travelled home on their own. Madanlal would then contact the Mumbai residents wanting to go to their hometowns for vacation and charge anything between Rs 1,100 and Rs 3,000 for the train journey. He would ask them to impersonate the migrants whose names were on the travel list, but were not in the city to take the train.

70% migrants already gone

"Many a times, we find that some of the registered migrants have left for their hometowns on their own. In such a scenario, we ask the group leaders to accommodate others who were not listed for that particular day. In this particular incident, the accused and some group leaders sent their own people after taking money from them," a police officer, who is part of the investigating team, told mid-day. Police said more than 70 per cent of the migrant workers who had registered for the Shramik Special train have already left for their homes via road.

"Madanlal and Panas were active in Sakinaka as they knew most of the migrants' group leaders. He would collect from them the details about the registered migrants who had left on their own and use that to send non-migrants to UP and other places," the officer added.

Residents apply too

Another officer pointed out that even though the rules are clear that only the migrant labourers are allowed to take the Shramik Special, people settled in the city send application to avail the facility meant for poor labourers.

"We receive applications from people who have their own flats and cars in Mumbai. Migrants are labourers who come here for day-to-day jobs. Those who own flats here are resident of Mumbai," he said. He added that it is difficult to vet everyone in a very short span of time, when we are sending thousands of migrants home daily. Many residents have been applying for seats on Shramik Special as this is the vacation period. "As May is the month of vacation, Mumbaikars go to their hometowns or villages every year and return in June before the schools reopen," he said.

Police have arrested Madanlal under Sections 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 34 (common intent) of the IPC and the relevant sections of Epidemic Diseases Act.

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