Coimbatore

“Send us back home” is the only demand from many migrant workers in Tiruppur

Though units reopen, the workers have no money to meet expenses such as house rent

The wait seems to be endless for 35-year-old Kailash. His two sons, aged 10 and two, wife and parents all live in Odisha. Kailash came to Tiruppur in search of work two decades ago and is employed with an exporting unit since then. But, for the last two months there is no work. He received his weekly wages last in March.

“Now, the factory is open. But, I get work only for two or three days a week,” he says.

“When there is no work, how can I stay here with confidence ? I see the news every day. If Corona [COVID-19] increases, will I be able to see my family in Odisha ?,” he asks.

This is one of the reasons, according to Kailash, why migrant workers in Tiruppur want to return to their home States. He has registered online to take the special train organised by the Government. He even asked his family to send ₹3,000 as there were reports that the district administration was organising buses and that the ticket cost for each person was ₹2,500.

“My family sent the money. But, there no buses were arranged then. So I used that money for food for the last few days,” he says.

Kailash stays in a room with two other workers, paying ₹ 1,600 as monthly rent. The building has 10 such rooms. The building owner is demanding monthly rent and the workers are unable to pay as they do not have work, he adds.

“I have given my name and address with the police, post office, and Collector office. I am waiting to hear from them. We will all come back after the Corona problem is over,” he adds.

Manish from Bihar is employed with a stitching unit in Tiruppur for nearly 15 years. “I have registered online and got the token too. But I have not yet got any information about the train,” he says. He stays in a room with three more migrant workers and the rent is ₹3000 a month.

“We walk to work every day. The factory has just started work and the room owner is asking for rent. Where will we go for money,” he asks.

“My family members call me every day. They want me to come home at the earliest. As I did not have work for a month and did not get my wages, my family sent me money,” he says.

Kailash and Manish are among the nearly 1.3 lakh migrant workers in the district employed across sectors - knitwear, construction, trade, etc.

Only around 11,000 have registered in the online State government nodal portal requesting to be sent to their respective hometowns, say Revenue Department officials. But, there were several instances of protests across Tiruppur district between May 4 and 9 with a single demand: “Send us back home”.

Of the nearly 11,000 workers, the district administration has helped 6,743 board special trains or buses in the past five days since May 10. Nearly 4,000 more workers are expected to leave the district in the next one week.

“We (garment exporters) request the workers to stay back. But they want to go to their respective States for many reasons. Many of them already left for Holi festival. The lockdown was extended twice and the industry is just beginning to resume work. It will take two or three weeks for the entire supply chain to start functioning. Only after that will all the workers get work as before,” says Raja M. Shanmugham, president of Tiruppur Exporters’ Association.

“They (workers) are desperate to go home,” says District Superintendent of Police Disha Mittal, who held talks with a group of protesting workers on May 7. “They said ‘If we get [COVID-19], we want to die in our native place,” she recalls.

The District Police teams are also reaching out to nearly 1,400 locations on a daily basis, either through personal visits or over the phone, to address the grievances of the migrant workers. “I personally get calls from 20 to 25 workers every day,” Ms. Mittal said.

According to District Collector K. Vijayakarthikeyan, the District Administration is taking “immediate action” regarding any issues related to the migrant workers. “We have not had any complaints since Friday and we will ensure the same in the coming days.”

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 6:52:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/send-us-back-home-is-the-only-demand-from-many-migrant-workers-in-tiruppur/article31585772.ece

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