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TN quarantine rules for migrant workers unviable, say employers

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on July 28, 2020 Published on July 28, 2020

The return of migrant workers to Tamil Nadu especially in and around Chennai has slowly started with Covid-19 lockdown being relaxed. However, the Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) issued by the Tamil Nadu government on Monday to bring the workers from other States is likely to make things difficult, say officials across all sectors.

As per the SoP, all the individuals who test positive shall be sent to hospital for treatment. All the individuals who test negative shall be sent for ‘room quarantine’ for 14 days at a suitable place identified by the contractor/manpower agencies and approved by the district administration.

All the individuals who are asymptomatic and have completed 14 days of ‘room quarantine’ can be deployed in work sites while complying with hygiene guidelines. During the 14 days quarantine, if any individual develops symptoms, they should be tested for Covid-19, the SoP says.

However, right from the neighbouring kirana store to retail stores, leather and textile units, truck/bus body building units and to rig operators in and around Namakkal are heavily dependent on labourers from other States. The SoP will make it difficult for the incoming workers to follow, said sources.

The SoP is not at all feasible. The migrant workers come in groups of 5 to 10 and stay at the same place. This rule will stop them from coming due to fear, said Sanjay M Lulla, Managing Partner at SM Lulla Industries Worldwide, a Chennai-based exporter of leather garments. Nearly half the workers in leather industry are from other States, he added.

“As an alternative, employers can do rapid antibody tests for all employees and keep it ready for inspection. In my office, I am doing every two weeks from the past two months,” he added.

Even for Chartered Accountants (CA) firms that employ workers from other States, the SoP will make it difficult. “It is quite impractical and going against what the government itself is doing with those within Tamil Nadu testing negative. It would be sensible if you quarantine a person who was anytime with say last 28 days tested positive or got treated before the date of entering Tamil Nadu,” said R Vittal Raj, a senior CA practitioner and employs professionals from outside the State.

“We have already lost a number of days due to the lockdown. We need workers to start working right from day one. This 14-day room quarantine will be lost to both the employee and employer,” said Manickam, a rig operator in Tiruchengode. Rigs from this western region of Tamil Nadu travel right up to the Himalayas for digging bore wells..

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Published on July 28, 2020
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