Data on drop in migrant community in Kerala contested

The Labour Department perceives a drastic drop in the migrant labour community in the State after the last year’s lockdown based on an ongoing data upgradation drive.

At last count, the department has managed to trace only around 1.70 lakh migrant workers from across the State. That data is being collated primarily with the help of 102 district labour officers though volunteers are also being enlisted to enhance the pace and efficiency of the drive.

“We are not expecting more than 2.50 lakh migrant workers after the last year’s post-lockdown exodus. A large section of those who had gone home then had not returned since owing to the general slowdown in availability of works,” said senior Labour Department sources.

The department had traced nearly 4.50 lakh migrant workers during the last year’s lockdown. Nearly 3.70 lakh of them are supposed to have returned in about 260 Shramik train services.

However, civil society organisations working in the field of migrant welfare find the assessment about the drop in migrant workers as not based on reality.

“The Labour Department’s assessment seems to be solely based on the data of 4.50 lakh migrant workers it had collected during the last lockdown. As on February 2020, there were about 30-35 lakh migrants in the State about which the department hardly have had any data. That number more or less had remained the same despite discounting the exodus from here post-lockdown as many of them have returned since while there have been fresh migrations triggered by poverty and joblessness back at their homes," said Benoy Peter, executive director, Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development.

George Mathew, coordinator, Progressive Workers Organisation, said that while there has been a significant drop in the migrant community, the actual numbers would still be considerably higher than the 2.50 lakh estimated by the Labour Department, which he also attributed to the flaws in the original data from the pre-COVID time.

“About 70% of the migrant workers have already returned, thanks mainly to the recent exodus since last month after COVID-19 cases started soaring here and a lockdown was rumoured. Private contract carriages targeting migrant workers were being operated from even small junctions of migrant worker-intense rural areas. In fact, it seems that by introducing targeted restrictions and delaying a lockdown, the authorities seem to have facilitated the gradual return of migrants with scant regard for its impact on the local economy,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 3:07:22 AM |

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