This group of volunteers in Chennai bridges the language gap between migrant workers and government officials

Migrant workers in Periamet on Monday, hoping to board a train to reach home

Migrant workers in Periamet on Monday, hoping to board a train to reach home   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Chennai Migrant Task Force, with 24 members, comprises Hindi-speaking volunteers drawn from various walks of life

A language barrier seems to have led to a lot of distrust and frustration among migrant workers towards the local administration and the police. Now, a group of volunteers, the Chennai Migrant Task Force, has stepped forward to bridge this communication gap.

The Chennai Migrant Task Force was formed by Ravin Carr, founder of The Feed Chennai Initiative — a coalition of NGOs and volunteers -- and comprises Hindi-speaking volunteers drawn from various walks of life including businessmen, those with NGO and ex-servicemen.

“The language gap is the biggest problem. For example, when the police find a group of workers walking on the road, we have been instructed to take them to the nearest shelter. Since we are unable to explain to the workers what we are doing, the workers are afraid and are unable to trust the police, which then leads to unwanted confusion,” said a police officer.

There are 24 members as on date on the task force. “The main aim is to communicate in the language of the workers and build trust among them,” said Mr. Carr. Every day, thousands arrive in front of the Dr. MGR Chennai Central Railway station hoping to catch a train to their hometown. All of them register on the site and, thinking that the acknowledgement message is their ticket, they then rush to the station,” said Mr. Carr.

He said that a lot of confusion had prevailed all these days, as there was no one who could speak their language and convince them to go to the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) shelters or police stations where their details including, identity proof would be collected and the process to send them home would begin.

On Monday, the task force played an important role when 900 workers mostly from Bihar gathered at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium hoping to go catch a train to their hometown.

“The numbers kept increasing through the day and they were not willing to listen to the police. Our volunteers and members of the Bihar State Association spoke to them and explained the process of getting aboard the train,” Mr. Carr said.

Subsequently, the migrant workers were taken to shelters. “Today half of them will leave for their hometown. They begin to trust us when we speak in a language they can follow,” added Mr. Ravin Carr.

A police officer said that there was no point in asking them to register on the website. “It asks for 28 details and that too in English and Tamil. Even if they do manage to register, it does not help them to travel. The GCC and police collect details of those who approach them and then make arrangements to send them home,” said the officer.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 8:56:55 AM |

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