High drama prevailed in Payipad town on the outskirts of the Kottayam district on Sunday morning when hundreds of inter-state migrant workers staged a public protest defying the country-wide lock down.
The protests began by 11 a.m when the inter-state migrants , mostly from West Bengal and Assam, staged a blockade on the Changanassery-Mallappilly Road demanding food and travel facility for returning to their homelands. The attempts by the police and the Payippad Panchayat authorities to pacify the protesters are yet to reach a breakthrough.
District Collector P.K. Sudheer Babu and the District Police Chief G. Jaidev too have intervened in the issue.
Eyewitness accounts suggested that the workers, camping in and around the village, poured into the rural roads on Sunday morning in search of essentials, only to find that all grocery stores in the region are closed. Their resentment snowballed into a protest allegedly after the Panchat refused to intervene in the issue.
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“Labours in majority of the camps have been starving since Saturday evening and they are learned to have lodged a complaint to this regard to the Panchayat. But despair gave way to anger as they were denied food on the next morning and afternoon as well,” said a local resident.
A meeting convened by the Payipad Panchayat the other day had directed the owners of the migrant labour camps to provide food to the inmates during the lock down period. The meeting, also attended by the Station House Officer, Thrikkodithanam and the Tehsildar, also asked the building owners not to evict any of the inmates from the camps during the period.
As per estimates, around 10,000 inter-state migrant workers have been camping in the Payippad panchayat.