Health officials in a fix as migrant workers set to return

Lack of proper registration and fear of potential malaria and filariasis being spread 
by guest workers is causing concern among healthcare workers

Published: 18th June 2020 07:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th June 2020 07:18 AM   |  A+A-

A child of a  migrant labourer family hailing from Jharkhand waiting in front of Central railway station in Thiruvananthapuram , B P Deepu

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The lifting of lockdown restrictions and the realisation that the pandemic threat is here to stay for a while may prompt guest workers who left the state to return to Kerala. Health authorities and district administrations have landed in a fix as this is happening at a time when the Kerala government is chalking out plans to bring backs of lakhs of expatriates and people from other states. Till now, nearly three lakh guest labourers have left the state in special Shramik trains. 

According to officials, they are flooded with enquiries and applications from guest workers and real estate companies requesting passes for entry to the state. Also, officials at the district medical office have warned of potential malaria and filariasis with the arrival of migrants. A senior official on Covid-19 duty said that the state should stop being liberal with entry passes for people from other states. 

“For every 25 people going in quarantine, we require an additional medical team and other resources. With the lifting of lockdown restrictions, businesses have reopened and the demand for labourers is 
increasing. Restaurant owners and real estate companies are placing applications and enquiring about the formalities to bring back workers to the state,” said a senior official. 

The official said that only Kerala has been allowing short visit and monthly passes for people from other states. “This is not the time for putting our guard down. According to ICMR, the country is going to hit the peak of Covid-19,” said the official. The official said that the government will have to take a stand on this. “We have informed the higher authorities as we aren’t prepared to receive or take care of migrant guest workers. We have to send them back if there is an influx,” he said.  

Registration essential
Health experts demand proper registration and screening of guest labourers who are returning to the state. “We had a hard time earlier as a large section of the guest workers weren’t officially registered. Now is the right time to intervene before things go out of hand. The Labour Department authorities should step in and start maintaining a register or else the police should keep a record on the guest workers arriving in their jurisdictions. There should be a system in place,” said an official. The official said that the employers who want to bring these workers back should be made to take up the responsibility of providing quarantine for them.

Authorities have also mooted deploying a medical teams to conduct blood checks on guest workers at railway and bus stations. “The majority of the malaria cases which are reported in the state are imported from other states. Human resources are the main issue now. The demand for more contract employees is increasing as our existing staff is already burdened,” the official added.  Currently, there are 1,22,143 people under observation in various districts in the state. Of these, 1,20,157 are in home quarantine or institutional quarantine. As many as 1,986 are isolated at hospitals. 

Traders gear up
E S Biju, state general secretary of Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti said that guest workers are an integral part of any industry in the state. “We need them back and many employers have started efforts to bring them back to the state,” said Biju. He said that restaurant owners are ready to provide quarantine facilities for the workers returning to the state. “But we need the support of the state government. Over 70 per cent of the hotels and restaurants in the state are dependent on the migrant workers,” he added.  

Statistics of guest workers who returned till June 14

State     No of     No of
    workers     trains

Bihar    42699     32
Jharkhand    22456     16
Orissa    26050     18
West Bengal    135113      91
Madya Pradesh    5260    04
Uttar Pradesh    24596     20
Rajasthan    7221    05
Uttarakhand    880     01
Manipur    684     --
Sikkim    47     --
Mizoram    245     01
Arunachal Pradesh    341     --
Meghalaya    403     --
Tripura    625     01
Assam    18233      12
Nagaland    490     01

Total    2,86,520       203


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