Construction, being a large-scale, widespread activity in Ernakulam, has engaged migrant workers in thousands in the industry, a la other districts. The expansion of the Kochi Refinery, for instance, gave employment to around 10,000 migrant workers during 2016-17. The study conducted by the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID) maps the source States for workers in the construction sector, pointing out that major construction projects have workers predominantly from northern and eastern India.
While traditional fishers from Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh are boatmen in fishing boats, inexperienced workers from Assam are also found manning boats. Most of them live on the boats. “Besides, men from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh were found working in the harbour in Kochi, loading and unloading fish and ice. Migrant fisher families from Husur in Mysuru were found engaged in inland fishing using their coracles in Chittoor, Vaduthala and Thoppumpady….”
The study also traces the labour junctions that have come up in most towns in the district.
Vathuruthy, which was a large residential cluster of workers from Tamil Nadu, has now begun to take in workers from other States as well. Apart from temporary shelters and permanent structures along the Kuzhikkad-Puthenkurisu road and adjoining areas, some permanent shelters house workers at Karimugal junction.
While accommodation for most workers are in makeshift shelters, there are street dwellers too in places like Kaloor.
“Although the popular perception is that migrants are concentrated in the Perumbavoor municipal limits, a recent enumeration found only around 1,700 migrant workers residing within the limits of the municipality which includes 69 families [sic].”
But an estimated 1.5 lakh workers live in panchayats surrounding the municipality such as Vazhakkulam, Vengola, Rayamangalam, Okkal, Kanjoor, Asamannoor, and Mudakkuzha, finds the study.