Situation back home forcing North-East workers to return

S. Vijay Kumar
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Senior officials shared this feedback at a high-level meeting

Taking stock:Kancheepuram Superintendent of Police S. Manoharan interacts with workers from the North-East in an automobile workshop in Kancheepuram district on Saturday.
Taking stock:Kancheepuram Superintendent of Police S. Manoharan interacts with workers from the North-East in an automobile workshop in Kancheepuram district on Saturday.

The exodus of employees belonging to North-Eastern States from Tamil Nadu in the last three days followed frantic calls from their families or friends who expressed concern that the situation in Assam might spread to 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 shared the common feedback that the employees of North-East 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.

Close monitoring

It was decided to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the railway authorities and enhance surveillance in areas with concentration of North-East population across the State.

“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. We conveyed to them the assurance given by the police with regard to their safety here,” 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 about 90 calls were received at the helpline police assistance booth though many concerned local issues.

“Some North-East youth 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 north-east workers employed in industries and construction sites and assured them of their safety.

“We also visited many educational institutions and interacted with the students belonging to North-Eastern States there. There was no sign of any fear…,” Mr. Manoharan said.



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