Supply of cooked food to construction workers and migrant labourers will be stopped from Tuesday, nearly a month after the system was started. The decision to stop supply to nearly 1.5 lakh people comes in the light of exemptions from lockdown given to several sectors, especially construction sector.
The last food supply will be the dinner on Monday, a communique from Labour Secretary to BBMP Commissioner and Bengaluru Deputy Commissioner on Saturday said, and asked them to make alternative arrangements. Sources said the decision was taken as a large number of migrant labourers have either left or are likely to leave the city. Trade unions estimate that about 30% of the migrant labour force in the construction sector that is now dependent on government’s food dole could return home. More than 30 lakh food packets have been distributed since April 5 when the distribution began.
The department estimates that about 15,000 workers, who do not have kitchens, would still need the prepared food facility. The Karnataka Construction Workers’ Welfare Board has decided to scale up distribution of dry ration kits in the meanwhile. “Discussions are underway as to how to ensure dry rations to the affected families before the prepared food distribution is scaled down. The callers on hunger helpline are asking for dry ration,” said sources aware of the development.
A trade union leader acknowledged that the move to provide dry ration kits is the only long-term solution. “We have already seen decline in the demand for prepared food since limited economic activity started,” he said.
Incidentally, Labour Department’s earlier plan to distribute one lakh dry ration hampers with about 13 items was mired in controversy after political intervention led to BBMP taking over amidst allegation of haphazard distribution. Very few construction workers received the ration kits though the money came from the Construction Workers’ Welfare Board.
The department issued an order asking for a list of construction workers who will require dry ration kits. It even specified who is a construction worker - someone who has worked at least for one year in 51 trades identified in the construction industry. If an elected representative wants to add beneficiaries, he would have to draw up a list and submit it. The distribution process is to have either an official, trade union representative or a corona warrior.
“Officials will have to face disciplinary action if any beneficiary calls the hunger helpline and complains,” said a source.