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Kerala: Restive migrant workers demand tranport to go home, dispersed

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on March 29, 2020

The Kottayam district administration and police swung into action and dispersed hundreds of migrant labourers who defied lockdown and social distancing norms and gathered on the main road at Payippad, demanding transport to head back home.

District Collector PK Sudheer Babu told newspersons that it was not clear what prompted the workers to group and raise the demand since their needs, including food, shelter and water, were being fulfilled by the local panchayat administration.

There are around 10,000 migrant workers based in Payippad, and they have been rendered jobless following the lockdown. Some of them have already gone home earlier during the breakout phase of Covid-19. The Collector said their plight after running out of emergency cash is understandable but their demand for outbound transport is unreasonable in the context of the lockdown and the directive that ‘people stay wherever they are.’

The Collector said the workers had refused to partake of the food being prepared in community kitchen set up by the panchayat administration. Instead, they wanted raw grains and other food stuff supplied so that they could cook their own food. The panchayat administration has been supplying these to them.

What triggered the protest needs to be probed, Sudheer Babu said. It is likely that they have seen live news on television showing migrant labourers in other States being transported home, after their own State governments intervened with the Centre.

Steps have already been taken to decongest the camps in Kerala and the government has readied adequate space for them. But they were unwilling to move from their existing camps. State Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar, who reached Payippad, said that migrant labourers are safest in Kerala and all their requirements will be taken care of by their host government. At least 50,000 people are being provided food through the community kitchens set up across the State since the lockdown.

Published on March 29, 2020

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