The Coimbatore Police have arrested five truck drivers for attempting to illegally take 250 migrant workers in container trucks to their native places in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, violating the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
Three trucks bearing Haryana registration numbers and two with Delhi registration have been seized.
The workers were employed in Pollachi, Sulur, Palladam and Dharapuram and were out of work following the lockdown imposed a week ago. They were mostly working in the construction sector on daily wages. They had, through an agent, agreed to pay a specified amount for the transportation, a trade union source said.
All the workers have since been shifted to employee camps.
The police said that the trucks were stopped by a team from Singanallur station at A.G. Pudur around 2 a.m. on Tuesday during a routine vehicle check. Upon checking inside, Inspector M. Muneeswaran and Sub-Inspector Arjun Kumar found about the workers.
While three trucks with 197 persons were bound for Rajasthan, two others bound for Madhya Pradesh had 53 persons on board.
Following this, the drivers H. Rajendra Singh (40), J. Balaram (38) and B. Anilkumar (28) from Delhi, and R. Indrapal Singh (28) and R. Mukesh Patil (32) from Uttar Pradesh were arrested but let out on bail. Cases were booked under Sections 143, 269 and 270 of the IPC, along with Section 177 of the Motor Vehicles Act.
Hunt on for agent
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Coimbatore East, M. Somasundaram, said that the district administration was providing food and essentials to the workers.
Sub-Inspector Kumar said that the trucks were returning empty from Kochi and the group of workers got in touch with the drivers through their contacts.
Coimbatore Collector K. Rajamani said that the revenue and police officials were hunting for the agent who arranged for the transport of the migrant workers.
AITUC (Tamil Nadu) Construction Workers’ Union deputy general secretary N. Selvaraj said that following the lockdown, wages had not been paid to the workers. The sub-contractors are not willing to take responsibility for providing them food.
N. Murugesan, secretary, Coimbatore Lorry Owners Association, said that fleet operators here always obtained due permission before using vehicles for transportation.
(With inputs from Wilson Thomas, M. Soundariya Preetha and R. Akileish in Coimbatore)