Workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are leaving Gujarat after the alleged rape of a 14-month-old girl in Sabarkantha district. The mass exodus of workers is happening after they received threats to leave the state by October 8. According to the labourers, threats have not stopped despite a warning issued by Gujarat state police chief. Why the Gujarat government has not taken steps to provide security to migrant workers hailing from other states? Why didn’t the government intervene at the right time to prevent the exodus of the migrant labourers?
Many migrant workers were rendered homeless after their shanties were attacked. Many of them sustained injuries. Since a large number of the workforce from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are employed in labour intensive factories in Gujarat, it can have an impact on the state’s industry. Kshatriya Thakor Sena said that employment must not be provided to labourers hailing from other states.
Shyama Singh, Vice President of Bihar BJP said, “According to me, it doesn’t depend on the person’s state whether he is bad or not. But if someone has done wrong then he must be punished. The act of rape is condemnable and stringent action must be taken against the culprit. Although, just exploiting all the employees because of their identity depending on the state is not appropriate.”
Many workers are employed in the diamond polishing industry. “Asking workers to quit the state during the festival season will affect their livelihood. The exodus of workers will also create a regional divide. Gujarat is known as one of the leading industrialised states in India. However, this incident will only create hatred between residents of Gujarat and north Indian states,” said a labourer employed in the diamond polishing industry in Surat.
BJP spokesperson Avdhut Wagh said, “This is a political strategy by the Congress party in Gujarat especially by Alpesh Thakor to showcase the failures of BJP in the state and destabilises the Gujarat government. The BJP government in Gujarat will not allow anything wrong to happen to the workers and the state. The state government will ensure that the state economy does not get affected.”
There has been a large scale migration of the labourers from other parts of the state to Gujarat. “Workers used to prefer to stay back due to the peaceful atmosphere prevalent in the state. However, the recent rape of a toddler has created insecurity among the workers as they are leaving Gujarat and heading towards their home state. The government must take steps to provide protection to the migrant labourers in Gujarat,” said a labour hailing from Uttar Pradesh on the condition of anonymity.
Director General of Police Shivanand Jha said that the attacks have taken place in Mehsana, Gandhinagar, Sabarkantha, Patan, and Ahmedabad districts in the last one week and 170 people have been arrested in connection with the incidents. He added that the attacks had taken place after hate messages against labours from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were circulated on the social media. He said that around 18 FIRs were registered in several districts of Gujarat so far following the attacks on non-Gujaratis.
The 14-month-old girl was allegedly raped in a village near Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha district on September 28. The victim belonged to the Thakor community. Congress MLA Alpesh Thakur is on an indefinite fast from October 8 to demand justice and compensation for the victim.