Chennai

They reached out to their brothers, sisters

working shoulder to shoulder: Khirod Jena and Niranjan helped the Health Department collect information from the injured labourers. Photo: M. Karunakaran

working shoulder to shoulder: Khirod Jena and Niranjan helped the Health Department collect information from the injured labourers. Photo: M. Karunakaran   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

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Utkal Association members, Khirod from Thiruvanmiyur and Niranjan from OMR, assist police during rescue operations at Moulivakkam. K. SARUMATHI on the good samaritans

The news of the building collapse in Moulivakkam hit Khirod Jena hard, because he realised many working at the site were from his home-town. As a cultural representative of the Oriya government in Chennai and the president of the Utkal Association of Madras, he felt he had a responsibility towards them. Along with the secretary of his association, Niranjan Mishra, he rushed to the accident site, but was not allowed to go anywhere near it.

Dejected, they left. Meanwhile, the rescue team, which was pulling out the injured and admitting them to the hospital, was unable to communicate with the labourers, who could not speak in Tamil or English and they spoke only a smattering of Hindi.

In order to gather information from the injured that could help in rescue of others trapped in the debris, Khirod Jena was contacted and asked to work as a translator.

Between them, Khirod and Niranjan visited the Ramachandra Medical College, MMC and the mortuary at Royapettah hospital. “The rescue team found three survivors from Odisha. They were unable to gather any information from them due to the language problem. I was asked to collect information such as how many labourers were working that day, their names and age and what they were doing. I passed on the data to the police for making identification easier,” says Khirod, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur.

Eleven people from Odisha had been working at the site: four of them were found dead and another four could not be traced. At the mortuary, Khirod and Niranjan worked as coordinators for the van drivers carrying bodies to the victims’ home towns.

“Again, language was a big problem. The drivers knew only Tamil and had to find their way around in Odisha. We were constantly in touch with them till they handed over the body to the families. We also coordinated with the district collectors about the bodies being brought there.”

The two were also in touch with the Odisha government and asked for a representative to be sent here. They accompanied Prafulla Mallick to the accident site and the hospital. Now, Khirodjena will be heading to Odisha to ensure relatives of the deceased get the compensation announced by the government. “I will leave next week and make a visit to each household.”

Amar Rawth, younger brother of one of the diseased, has already contacted him stating that he has been denied compensation by the local tahsildar.

“The death certificates issued are in Tamil and no one can read them back in Odisha. I have asked him to send me the copy and I will get him one in English,” says Khirod.

While the association assists their state members during such testing times, it also keeps in touch with the labour class coming here for work. “We conduct yearly health camps for the labourers and involve them in the work relating to the Oriya Foundation Day help in April,” says Niranjan, a resident of OMR.

There are so many unregistered labourers coming to the State on work. We have suggested to our government to send a representative who could establish contact with people coming from the State and keep a record of them.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 3:28:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/they-reached-out-to-their-brothers-sisters/article6227962.ece

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