National

Raids reveal squalor in migrant labour camps

Our Bureau Kochi | Updated on July 23, 2014

Kerala cracks the whip on employers exploiting workers from other States





A series of raids on labour camps in some districts in Kerala housing migrant labourers found that most of these camps functioned in extremely unhygienic and unhealthy conditions.

The raids, jointly carried out by Labour, Health, Police and Local Self Government departments, exposed the shocking conditions in which thousands of workers lived.

Closure notice

For example, the authorities who searched 166 camps in which 51,000 workers lived ordered six of them closed on Tuesday. They also served notice on 70 camps to immediately upscale the living conditions or face closure and legal action.

Ernakulam is estimated to have the largest number of migrant labourers in Kerala. They come mostly from West Bengal, Assam and Orissa.

The raids were part of the Safe Kerala campaign of the Health Department aimed at prevention of epidemics, ensuring hygienic conditions at workplaces, homes, schools and other public places. The authorities have been worried about the extremely poor and unhygienic conditions in the labour camps of migrant workers across the State.

Miserable situation

Officials said many of the migrant workers had a sheep-like existence in the labour camps. They said the labour camps, which were usually provided and run by the employers, mainly construction companies, were cramped.

Overflowing sewers, crowded and dirty rooms and stench emanating from all over were the main features of many camps.

In many of the camps raided, the rooms were packed with people, with 10-20 in just one room and just one toilet for three or four rooms. The kitchens often had rudimentary facilities. Water supply was infrequent and sewerage was horrible.

Officials said it was the responsibility of the employers to give hygienic accommodation to the workers.

They also pointed out that in many cases the living conditions of the workers at places rented by them were even worse. One reason was that many of the workers were illiterate and were unaware of the need for hygienic living.

Steady influx

Last year, the government had estimated that there were around 25 lakh migrant workers in Kerala. Workers from the East and North-East States flood Kerala as manual and semi-skilled jobs are plenty in the State and the wages are much higher than in other States.

However, the workers are often exploited by labour contractors and employers.

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Published on July 23, 2014
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