Tamil Nadu

1,200 migrant workers left in the lurch

Nowhere to go: The workers, hailing from Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, have been left high and dry without sufficient food and rations  

At least 1,200 migrant workers, employed by firms supplying various components to a major automobile company and residing in villages surrounding the Sriperumbudur taluk in Kancheepuram district, have been left high and dry without sufficient food, rations and wages during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

“We have to test our luck every day when [representatives of] private companies or NGOs visit our area to distribute food packets. This is because they come here with 500 packets, whereas we number 1,200. Our employers have not paid our salaries in full,” said Mukesh Kumar Singh (name changed), who lives in Palnellur.

Mr. Singh, who is in his 20s, said the workers were primarily employed in four to five companies and hailed from Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. “They (employers) are neither letting us return to our home towns nor providing us sufficient food,” he lamented. He said that the workers in neighbouring villages like Selaiyanur, Araneri, Maambakkam, Vallam and Kandigai were also in the same boat.

His friend Rajesh Das said, “The contractor is avoiding us and not attending our calls. They should either give us food and salary or allow us to return to our native places.”

J. Vinayagam, Inspector of the Sriperumbudur police station, confirmed that he had received an oral complaint, adding that after he followed it up, the contractor released 75% of the salary. “He has promised to pay the remaining [amount] in two or three days,” he said.

Human rights’ activist Henri Tiphagne, whose staff from People’s Watch have been coordinating with the workers to get relief delivered to them, said, “If migrant workers living so close to the State capital are going through this, it speaks volumes about the prevailing scenario across the State. Like the Health Secretary, the Labour Secretary should hold a daily press meet to elaborate on how relief is being distributed to migrant workers.”

Kancheepuram Collector P. Ponniah told The Hindu that the district administration had identified over 38,000 migrant workers living in 163 places in the State. “We found that they were living in congested areas, and decided to help them. We have provided accommodation to 490 of them.”

Mr. Ponniah said that the district administration had received undertakings from 62 companies and 165 labour contractors that they would provide food and accommodation to their workers.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 5:38:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/1200-migrant-workers-left-in-the-lurch/article31435109.ece

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