Other States

Fears mount in rural Odisha as migrant workers return home

Police personnel wear masks to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection, at a hospital in Bhubaneswar.   | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Remote villages in migration prone Kendrapara and many western Odisha districts are in the grip of mounting anxiety as migrant labourers begin to return home from States affected by the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India | State Helpline numbers

Kendrapara is popularly dubbed as the plumbing capital of India for the skilled plumbers it exports both to other parts of India and some overseas labour markets.

For the past one week, the return of plumbers from different parts of country has unnerved the local villagers and left them fretting about their health in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“As activities came to a halt in different cities due to coronavirus scare, jobless plumbers have started returning to their homes,” said Ardendu Rout, a resident of Pokhariapada locality of Pattamundai town in Kendrapara. “We don’t know if they were screened at bus terminals or railway stations. If one person tests positive for coronavirus, it would have catastrophic impact in the region,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Kendrapara district administration has announced that 250 panchayat buildings will be converted to isolation centres.

Kerala, where the country’s first COVID-19 case was officially reported, imports workers for its plywood industries from Kendrapara and other coastal districts of Odisha. The return of migrant workers from outside the State is matter of concern both for fellow villagers and the local administration.

“When developed countries have failed to contain COVID-19 despite having much improved healthcare service system, we will be left to die if the coronavirus spreads in the community,” said Shankar Charan Parida, a native of Padanipala village in the Aul block of the coastal district. “We don’t have adequate doctors and paramedical workforce to look after people,” he added.

Hundreds of migrant labourers from Bhadrak, Balangir and Bargarh districts work in the spinning mills of Tamil Nadu.

“Although they work in clusters and are relatively safe, workers want to be with their families at times of crisis,” observed Umi Daniel, a renowned expert on migration issues. “They would definitely return and we should be prepared to face the situation. There should be adequate screening facilities at bus terminals and railway stations,” he added.

Mr. Daniel said, “community should be made aware about importance of sharing information on migrant labourers returning home. If we push panic button unnecessarily, families of migrant labourers would be discriminated in their own villages. Even the possibility of migrant workers being physically driven out of their villages cannot be ruled out.”

About three lakh people, including women and minor children, from six to seven western Odisha districts work in brick kilns outside the State. These seasonal migrant workers usually return in the month of May and June. In light of the coronavirus scare, there are apprehension that they too may return earlier.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 10:17:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/fears-mount-in-rural-odisha-as-migrant-workers-return-home/article31085059.ece

Next Story