Yadav’s co-worker Babu Binnar is in Odisha; he too wants to return, but faces the same problem: lack of transportation. “I have been working in the hotel industry for the past 13 years and I want to resume duty,” he said.
According to Binnar, even getting to Bhubaneswar – his village lies in Bhadrak District, around 200 kilometres from the state capital – to catch a train is difficult. “Train services are erratic and getting a ticket is next to impossible.
The government should make some arrangements so people like me can return to work. I have a small piece of land in the village but that is not sufficient to feed my family,” he said.
Pintu Kamardas is a waiter at Khana Khazana, Charni Road; he too is stuck in his village in Jharkhand. Kamardas called his boss, the hotel owner, and asked for help, but he was also helpless.
“I don’t even know whom to turn to for help,” he said. “I am dependent on my elder brother; I have not earned any money for the past four months,” Kamardas said. His boss Jatin Henia said several of his staff had called him for help. “We are managing with astaff of eight; we had 25.”
Shashidhar Shetty, a member of Ahar, said 95 per cent of hotels in Mumbai were suffering from staff shortages. “The workers are stuck in villages. There is no plan to bring them back. There are trains from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but not from other states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.”
Shetty said the industry employed more than two lakh workers from other states, and without them it could not function. Despite the lockdown, hotels had to pay, on average, Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per day to the government in utility charges and taxes, he said. “You can imagine how much financial losses we have incurred. We urge the chief minister and the tourism minister to consider the transportation problem of these migrant workers and bring them back.”
Some workers are reluctant to return for fear of catching the disease. Kaustubh Tambe, owner of Aram Hotel at CST, said he employed 38 people, but is currently managing with only seven. Most of his workers are from Maharashtra, and they are scared to return. “I have tried to support them financially, but cannot continue to do so indefinitely. Labour crunch, dip in demand… everything is affecting the industry,” he said.
Railway officials admitted train services from states other than Uttar Pradesh and Bihar could be improved. “However, occupancy in trains coming from other states is less than usual,” a railway official said. The Mirror checked the railway time table: there were 10 trains from UP, four from Bihar, one each from Jodhpur, Punjab, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Karnataka, Hyderabad, West Bengal, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram.
However, trains from West Bengal were suspended on request of the state government. With inputs from