While the entire country is shocked at the death of 16 migrant labourers who died in Maharashtra's Aurangabad on Friday, two incidents of labour exploitation have come to light from Surat in Gujarat. The city is under complete lockdown from May 9 to May 14.
Several BJP workers of Surat city were caught red-handed while exploiting migrant labourers who were registering to buy train tickets to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, etc. A BJP worker who has been identified as Rajesh Verma was running the scam of exploiting the migrants stranded in the city because of the lockdown. Along with Verma, there were several other workers of the ruling party who were involved in scamming the labourers.
Hundreds of migrant had paid around Rs 1,16,000 to these BJP workers who are caught on camera telling these labourers that each ticket costs Rs 1,000 when the original ticket rate is ₹710. This came to light when the workers marched over to Verma's house demanding for tickets for which they had paid or else refund the amount. A scuffle also broke out between them. During this, Verma assaulted a labourer and hit one on the head after which the worker was seen bleeding profusely.
Another such instance was when a few days back, a video had gone viral where BJP leader Amarsinh Rajput, who is the brother of State leader Amitsinh Rajput, was seen asking for Rs 1,000 from workers for train tickets that cost Rs 710. The video was shot by one migrant from Jharkhand who is heard asking about the train fare.
Even after the physical assault and the video, the police seemed to be taking the matter casually. AM Parmar, ACP of Limbayat area of Surat stated that an FIR has been registered against Verma for the physical altercations that took place between the party workers and labourers.
However, there is no mention of the tickets being sold at a higher price to the labourers. "We haven't received any complaint about this matter. If a complainant comes forward with the video and the money being taken by these BJP workers, we will register an FIR. If you know of someone please send them to us," Parmar told Republic TV.
The Congress party also said that there are so many times in this lockdown itself that the police has taken suo moto action. "The police registers FIRs on people who are out for urgent work or just walking their dogs in this lockdown. We are giving them video proof of BJP workers extorting more money than the ticket cost from labourers. Rajesh Verma is a close aide of Sangita Patil in Surat. This is why no FIR is registered against BJP who is not only not thinking about free train travel but is extorting more money from them," said Aslam Cyclewala, a Congress Corporator in Surat civic body.
Meanwhile, Surat BJP chief Nitin Bhajiawala, after several hours, came out to distance the party from the entire controversy.
"We are hearing these things about this Rajesh Verma who was scamming labourers. But, he is not our worker. We haven't assigned anyone the task of registering for tickets," he said. However, the police officials while speaking to the channel confirmed that they were BJP workers.