You’ve Got to Be Heartless to Cheat Migrant Workers: Surat Man Charges ₹1.16 lakh for Train Tickets

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You’ve Got to Be Heartless to Cheat Migrant Workers: Surat Man Charges ₹1.16 lakh for Train Tickets

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Migrants have been the hardest hit by the lockdown, with no place to stay, inadequate food supply and no jobs. Considering the grim situation, the worst crime one can commit during these times is to cheat them of their savings. And that’s exactly what one man from Surat did.

Rajesh Verma, whose Facebook profile says he is a BJP worker, has been accused of charging migrant workers three times the regular price of train tickets to their villages amid the lockdown. When one of the workers went to Verma’s house to protest, he was beaten up with a wooden plank.

Rajesh Verma had allegedly collected ₹1.16 lakh from a group of workers from Jharkhand, promising them tickets back to their villages In one video which has now gone viral, a bruised Vasudev Verma said that each ticket was sold for ₹2000. When Vasudev demanded a ticket, Rajesh Verma told him “nahi dega ja, jo ukhadna hai ukhad le”.

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The BJP has denied any links to Rajesh Verma. But photos on his Facebook show him posing with leaders of the party.

BJP Surat Metropolitan President Nitin Bhajiyawala posted a video message on Twitter saying, “Rajesh Verma, who was arrested by the police, is not a BJP worker and the BJP has not handed over any such operation to him.” However, it is unclear whether he was taken into custody.

A M Parmar, a senior police officer, said they have registered a case against the accused. “Rajesh Verma, who takes bookings for registration of migrant workers from Jharkhand who want to return home beat up Vasudev Verma who had gone to his office to enquire about his ticket. An FIR has been registered against Rajesh Verma at the Limbayat Police Station,” he said.

After much deliberation and media criticism, the government finally decided to start a fleet of special Shramik trains for migrants. Confusion ensued after reports emerged that labourers were being charged for the tickets, which led to the government clarifying that it would pay 85 percent of the cost and the rest would be borne by the states. While the measures make for good headlines and sound bites, the ground reality suggests that the struggle of migrant workers is far from over.

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