Tamil Nadu

Migrant workers firm on going home

Migrant workers leaving for Odisha on their bicycles at Gummidipoondi highway.

Migrant workers leaving for Odisha on their bicycles at Gummidipoondi highway.   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

Despite work starting in infrastructure projects, including road and bridge construction in the State, migrant workers say they just want to go home.

Sources in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) said that the workers were scared that COVID-19 would take a couple of more years to subside and the safest thing was to be at home.

Amrith Thirki, a worker from Odisha said that he and some 50 men from his village had been asked to come home by parents. “The numbers here are increasing, which is scary. We will go home and stay till the virus subsides and then return to do work. Our lives seem more important than money now,” he said.

“Work has started in several of our sites. But labour availability has become a major issue. Last night some 25 labourers from Odisha ran away from one site near Chennai. They feared that we will not be able to pay them. But we have paid ₹120 a day as allowance for 50 days, provided them food, and promised to pay them wages even for the days they were without work,” said a contractor with the NHAI.

A contractor with the State highways department said that men from Bihar at one of his sites had been pestering him to let them go back home. “We have told them to work till passes are issued and trains are available. We ensured food and now have also paid wages,” he said.

The workers said they had to return to their native places as their labour contractors were asking them to reach home. “These men usually work for 100 days and then go home after which they are usually redeployed in other sites. They will listen only to what the labour contractors says,” said a contractor, who is wondering how he will manage costs with labourers from Tamil Nadu. “If I pay a migrant ₹450 a day, I will have to pay the man from our State at least ₹650 a day. But that will push up project costs,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 12:28:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/migrant-workers-firm-on-going-home/article31602902.ece

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