COVID-19: Unable to return home, Odisha migrant hangs self in Haryana

Gangadhar Biswal, from Kendrapara, was upset that he could not get back home from Yamunanagar due to the lockdown  

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Thursday 14 May 2020

A 40-year-old migrant worker from Odisha’s Kendrapara district allegedly hanged himself from a tree in Haryana on the night of May 12, 2020, as he was upset over being unable to return home during the nationwide lockdown due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Gangadhar Biswal of Bajapur village under the Rajkanika block, had moved to Haryana’s Yamunanagar six months ago to work in a factory owned by Deco Plywood Industries.

Before his death, he posted a video on social media and requested the government to help him and make arrangements for his return. He also threatened to end his life if the administration did not help him  return to his village.

“My husband told me over the telephone on May 11 that he had no money to pay his room rent. He was quite depressed as he also could not arrange money to reach Bajapur,” Sabita, Biswal’s wife, said.

“We are also upset after the authorities refused to bring the body to our village and cremated it in Haryana on May 13,” she added.

Biswal is survived by his wife and two sons. The children were inconsolable over their father’s death.

“We never thought we would ever have to face such a tragedy,” Sangram (11), one of the sons, said, tears rolling down his face.

“After coming to know about the death of a migrant worker of the district in Haryana, we talked with the collector of Yamunanagar and he assured us of appropriate action against the plywood factory owner. We paid Rs 10,000 to the widow of the deceased on May 13,” Samarth Verma, the district collector of Kendrapara, said.

“COVID-19 has brought social and economic insecurity to many families across Odisha since many workers have lost their jobs. It is the duty of the administration to provide adequate food and shelter to migrant labourers and ensure wages are paid,” Umi Daniel, the director of non-profit Migration and Education Aide et Action, said.

“But many owners stopped wages and evicted workers from their homes at the work sites. Officials are not taking any action against them. As a result, the fate of large numbers of migrant workers is now hanging in balance,” he added.

“Migrant workers are the real contributors to India’s economy. But unfortunately, their role is not recognised. Our country is now facing some criticism because of the inconvenience experienced by the migrant workers due to the sudden, country-wide lockdown,” Daniel said.

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