For a section of society that has become a key constituent of the economics of the State, domestic migrant labourers in Kerala often live under appalling conditions.
Low wages, nomadic lifestyle, cramped living quarters, and poor hygiene are a few of the many challenges faced by domestic migrant labourers coming to Kerala to find a livelihood. A journal on migrant labour brought out by the Janamaithri police highlights these conditions as well as the state of Malayalis migrating abroad, and makes recommendations for improving the welfare of migrant labourers.
The third edition of ‘Janamaithri: A Journal of Democratic Policing’ was released in Kochi on Sunday. The first copy of the volume was handed over to Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas by Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala. While earlier editions of the journal focused on issues such as security of women, the current volume, with State Police Chief K.S. Balasubramanian as its Editor-in-Chief, features research papers on migrant labour, police officers’ notes on security aspects of migrant labour, newspaper articles, and snippets of community policing programmes of the Kerala police.
Among the studies published in the journal is a paper titled ‘Domestic Migrant Labourers in Kerala’ by D. Narayana and C.S. Venkiteswaran.
According to the paper, 42 per cent of domestic migrant labourers surveyed in Kerala reported that they lived in a room of seven or more persons. The study gave the example of a migrant labourers’ colony in Perumbavoor which had 10 people on an average living in a single living unit of approximately 200 sq.ft.
“Language is a big issue for the police when working with migrant labourers,” says Additional Director General of Police B. Sandhya, who is the nodal officer for the Janamaithri Suraksha Project.
Dr. Sandhya suggests setting up helplines in Hindi, Oriya, or Bengali to encourage migrant labourers to contact the police.
“We need people from among the labourers to come forward and work with the police to increase awareness about their rights,” she says.
The journal also highlights the issues faced by Malayalis migrating abroad in search of work. A study by Nalini Naik published in the journal noted that a large number of migrant workers surveyed were not even allowed to go out of the house where they were employed.
“It is a social reality that people migrate because of the lack of employment opportunities in their home States. Like any other floating population, migrant labourers in Kerala also have to be accounted for. The Janamaithri police works with other departments to sensitise people about the issues of migrant labourers and to find solutions,” said Dr. Sandhya.