Senior officials shared this feedback at a high-level meeting

The exodus of employees belonging to the northeastern States from Tamil Nadu over the last three days followed frantic calls from their families or friends who expressed concern that the situation in Assam might have an impact on neighbouring areas.

Apprehending attacks on their kin, the employees, mostly poorly paid labourers, went on leave, assuring their employers that they would be back soon, police sources said on Saturday.

At a high-level meeting convened by Chief Secretary Debendranath Sarangi at the Secretariat here, senior officials representing different departments were of the view that the migrants were rushing home only because they feared for the safety of their family members and not because of any intimidation in Tamil Nadu. Home Secretary R. Rajagopal, Revenue Secretary K. Gnanadesikan, Director-General of Police K. Ramanujam, Chennai Police Commissioner J.K. Tripathy among others took part in the discussion.

It was decided to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the railway authorities and enhance surveillance in areas of the State where people from the northeast were concentrated.

“We interacted with a large number of youth at the Chennai Egmore/Central railway stations on Friday. None of them pointed to any apprehension in the State. While some said they were just going on a holiday, many others confirmed that they were worried over the safety of their parents or relatives. Once normality returns in their home State, these employees will return to work…their baggage, certificates etc. are with the employers,” a senior police official said.

Assam Association president Sulakshan Saikia said he had accompanied police officials to the railway station on Friday night.

“Our association members interacted with the workers in their local language. There was not a single complaint of any threat in Tamil Nadu. They only said the situation in Assam was not good and they wanted to be with their family ,” he said.

Mr. Saikia said many poorly-paid daily-wage labourers in Salem and Dharmapuri districts were leaving because their employers opted to distance themselves in the event of any violence. With a huge exodus of migrant workers in neighbouring Karnataka, the labourers probably felt insecure, he said.

Sources in the Chennai Police said the helpline police assistance booth had received about 90 calls though many of them dealt with local issues.

“Some young people from the northeast called and requested if we could help in getting them accommodation in trains bound for Guwahati and Howrah. We coordinated with the Government Railway Police and assisted them,” a police official said.

In Kancheepuram district, Superintendent of Police S. Manoharan and other officials met hundreds of natives of the northeastern States, most of whom work in industries and construction sites, and assured them of their safety. “We visited many educational institutions and interacted with the students belonging to northeastern States there. There was no sign of any fear, Mr. Manoharan said.

More In: Chennai