Hundreds of migrant labourers working at a brick kiln in Pudhukuppam village of Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu were beaten up by their employer and his henchmen on Monday for demanding they be allowed to return to their native places.
"We want to go back home," said a migrant from Odisha before a swell of emotion forced her to prostrate before the visiting officials, exercising the last option to request for her return to her homeland.
Nearly 400 such migrants were being held against their will at a brick kiln in this Tamil Nadu village. After having requested their employer several times, the migrants staged a confrontation and what started off as a conversation turned into a clash between them and the owner.
The henchman allegedly hired by the owners of the brick factory beat up the migrant labourers, two of whom had to be hospitalised. Taking cognizance of the matter, the police have registered a case and a search is on to nab the proprietor of the kiln.
The police investigation further revealed that the workers were being held without the most basic and essential supplies such as water.
"There is no water supply for the past five days. How can we stay here? Added to that, we are beaten up here. Even the kids are not spared. We don't want to stay back," said Manasva, one of the workers.
This scene, appearing straight out of a dystopian future, reflects pretty much the current plight of migrants across Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile, more than 50 people hailing from Nagaland had assembled outside the MGR Central station in Chennai to catch a train back to their hometown. Or so they thought. To their disappointment, after reaching the station they found out that there were no trains going to Nagaland. The migrants said they had received a WhatsApp message saying a special train will leave on May 19. The message they received also had a logo claiming to be from the 'Office of the Naga Students' Union'.
"We got a WhatsApp message saying a special train is arranged for us to travel back. We packed our luggage and came here but the police informed us that no special train will leave for Nagaland today," said a migrant who had been waiting outside the central station for at least two hours on Tuesday. "We don't know where to go. We have been struggling to get one meal a day and a place to stay. We were hoping our turmoil will end today but it goes on."
Another group of migrants could be seen standing 100m away from the station, claiming they had been told a special train has been arranged for them to Tripura.
The menace of fake news is adding to the struggles of the poor as they try to get back home. Spurious information circulating in the state has led to migrants assembling at railway stations only to find out there are mistaken.
Scores of migrant workers stand at the railway station, their bags packed, in anticipation of trains. The Tamil Nadu government has been arranging trains to transport migrants back to their hometowns but they do not seem enough for the large numbers expecting to return, pressured by dwindling cash and a bleak future in the state.