Lockdown | Migrant workers in the Nilgiris lack essential commodities

Migrant labourers from Jharkhand at a camp near Udhagamandalam.

Migrant labourers from Jharkhand at a camp near Udhagamandalam.  

Contractors told it is their responsibility to provide food and lodging to their workers

Migrant workers in the Nilgiris complain of lack of assistance from the contractors whom they work for, stating that they face a threat of starvation as many have no access to food and essential commodities.

While the district administration has done a commendable job in ensuring that people in remote tribal hamlets have access to food and essential items, migrant labourers complain of a lack of assistance.

Umar Farooq, a migrant labourer from Jharkhand, who is among a group of 20 construction workers living in Gandhi Nagar near Lovedale, said that the contractors who brought them to work in the Nilgiris more than three months ago have refused to help them.

“As we have been out of work since the announcement of the lockdown, we have all run out of money and supplies. We are now eating only one meal a day, and are scared to venture out as we are also afraid that the police might arrest us,” said Mr. Farooq.

When contacted, officials at the district administration’s disaster management desk said that the officials had communicated to the contractors that it was their responsibility to provide food and lodging to their workers.

Imjat Ansari, another migrant worker from Jharkhand who was among a group of 11 persons in Ketti who were without food till Tuesday, said that contractors refused to take responsibility for their workforce. “They told us that we would get paid only if we work, and that we would have to buy our own food and provisions till the lockdown end,” he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the district administration did reach out to the group of labourers in Ketti, distributing food, wheat and pulses to them.

“This will last us for five to six days, and we hope that with this assistance, we can get through the lockdown,” said Mr. Ansari.

In Coonoor, a group of six non-governmental organisations have been distributing food to over 600 migrant workers since the beginning of the lockdown.

A member of one of the NGOs said that migrant workers were some of the most affected by the lockdown due to not being able to get any rations from the government. “Private contractors who they work for also seem unwilling in some cases to provide them with food supplies,” the member said.

On Monday, Collector J. Innocent Divya said that the administration had identified more than 10,000 migrant labourers in the district, most of whom were employed in private tea estates.

She said that the district administration was working with the estates in ensuring that they provide food and essential commodities to the workers at the estates.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 7:55:03 PM |

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