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Coronavirus | 2.5 lakh Odia labourers stranded in Gujarat face threat of infection, say activists

Most of the workers are from the Ganjam district employed in the textile industries of Surat that have closed down because of the lockdown

Most of the workers are from the Ganjam district employed in the textile industries of Surat that have closed down because of the lockdown   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

They are living in cramped rooms without food and income, they say

More than 2.5 lakh Odia migrant labourers stranded in Gujarat due to the lockdown are in a pitiable state as they are living in cramped rooms facing threat of infection and scarcity of food and no income.

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Most of these workers are from the Ganjam district employed in the textile industries of Surat that have closed down because of the lockdown. According to Niranjan Mohapatra, a migrant worker and labour activist in Surat, every other day, the workers are coming out daring the COVID-19 threat to hold demonstrations to get basic necessities and proper shelter.

Frustrated by the lack of proper initiatives by the Gujarat government, these workers are sending SOS to the members of the Odisha Disaster Migration Mapping for Intervention (ODMMI), an organisation of social activists. Green Nobel prize winner and environmental activist Prafulla Samantra, who is part of the ODMMI, said they are keeping track of the situation through contacts in Gujarat and have also taken up the matter with the Odisha government.

Pitambar Pradhan, an Odia lawyer of labour court in Surat, said accommodation is the major problem faced by these labourers. Usually a dozen workers take small rooms of 100 or 120 sq. ft. floor area on rent. They work in shifts and hence never be in the room at the same time even to sleep, so they could manage. While a group slept in the room, the other group was out at work.

Also read | Unorganised labourers need two kinds of cover: union organisation and legal, says labour expert

As all the textile units have closed down, all of them have to live in the cramped rooms where social distancing is impossible. They cannot remain and sleep in the rooms due to summer heat. “If anyone of them gets infected by COVID-19, it could lead to a dangerous situation,” said Mr. Mohapatra.

Mr. Mohapatra and Mr. Pradhan said it is high time the Gujarat government provided accommodation to them in schools and colleges to save them from possible infection. They alleged that most of these workers were paid on daily basis with the norm no work no pay. So, they now have no income and are facing scarcity of food. Even if they get food materials, it is hard for them to cook in the cramped rooms.

Also read | Workers face heat, hunger as lockdown is extended

Mr. Samantra said despite the directive from the Central government regarding migrant workers during the lockdown, the Gujarat government has not done much. He urged the Odisha government to take up the issue with the Gujarat government. If possible Odisha should send its officers to Gujarat to safeguard the life and livelihood of the workers. “It is the duty of the Odisha government to take up the responsibility since these workers have migrated to Gujarat because they could not get jobs in Odisha,” Mr. Samantra said.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 3:22:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-25-lakh-odia-labourers-stranded-in-gujarat-face-threat-of-infection-say-activists/article31358756.ece

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