Thousands more flee Bangalore, Pune despite govt plea for calm
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Hotel owners and security agency officials could be seen pleading with their employees at Bangalore City railway station to dissuade them from leaving. However, the steady flow of those trying to get on board the Guwahati Express, which runs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, continued.
While as many as 6,000 people were reported to have departed for Guwahati Wednesday on two special trains and the Guwahati Express, another 3,000 were scheduled to leave on Thursday on three special trains and the Guwahati Express. The Karnataka government's promise to ensure safety of all people from the Northeast living in Bangalore and other parts of the state didn't seem to be working.
"Out of the 1,200 employees in our hotel chain, as many as 400 are from the Northeast... They are central to our operations and now they are leaving," said Junaiz K, COO and general manager of the Empire Group of Hotels that has properties all around Bangalore.
The Empire management was Thursday offering its employees lodging in hotel rooms instead of their regular work dormitories to persuade them to stay.
However, the employees were not convinced. "Let us go, sir. We want to be with our families. We will not feel safe here when all our people are going back home," said a Manipuri youth.
Calling people from the Northeast among the "most pleasant tempered" in the service sector, Tabrez Ahmed Iqbal, who is part of a group of owners of a Chinese restaurant chain with as many as 30 outlets in the city, said 90 per cent of his 1,400 employees belonged to the region.
"It is very difficult to find local labour that is hardworking and pleasant... We are losing staff all around — cooks, waiters, cleaning people," Iqbal said as he scouted around the railway station for his employees. "We met a group and they refused to stay. They are asking us to give them some time to go to their families (before) returning."
Comparing the contribution of people from the Northeast to the service sector in Bangalore to that of Kerala nurses in healthcare, V Srinivasan, the general manager of a long-standing security firm in Bangalore, said his company's operations would slip into critical mode Friday onwards if its employees continued to leave.
"We lost about 15 per cent of our 1,000 employees on Wednesday and Thursday. Even seniors who said they would not be going did not report for work. If this continues, then we have to reallocate resources, increase work shifts and go in for temporary hiring," the general manager of the firm that provides services to the IT industry and other sectors said.
Among those offering their "help" to those gathered at the Bangalore railway station was the RSS, which provided food and water. While the Bangalore police have denied any reports of attacks on people from the Northeast in the city, the joint secretary of the Bangalore centre of the RSS, Karunakar Rai, told the Sangh cadre at the railway station that 30 attacks had taken place.
He asked RSS workers in all localities in the city to reach out to people from the Northeast and to assure them security. "Go and sleep in their houses. Let them stay in your homes. Spread goodwill in the same way that rumours have been spread."
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