KOCHI: When Ernakulam Rural SP K Karthik visited Bhai Colony in Perumbavoor two weeks ago, migrant labourers were in protest mode amid survival anxiety as the lockdown set in. The same people were clapping when Karthik returned to the colony on Wednesday. This time, the police reached the migrant workers’ colony with television sets and carrom boards.
Kerala has turned out to be a model for other states in handling panicked migrant workers. At the Bhai Colony, the Ernakulam Rural Police installed five television sets with cable connections and gave 10 carrom boards. The colony houses around 4,000 workers who are mostly from Odisha, West Bengal and Assam.“These people are not trouble makers. They were misled by fake news spread through social media,” Karthik told TNIE.
“Some people with vested interests are misguiding them. We installed TVs in the colony so that migrant workers can realise the facts after watching news channels. With no work, people spend around 10 to 12 hours on their mobile phones.”The respective district police chiefs had purchased televisions and carrom boards following a directive from State Police Chief Loknath Behera. Karthik claims it as a confidence-building measure among migrant workers.
“We want to keep them engaged so that they feel at home. We have provided them with CDs of movies in Odiya, Bengali and Assamese languages. We also conduct awareness campaigns on Covid-19 and the protective measures needed,” he said.Perumbavoor MLA Eldhose Kunnapilly said combined efforts of various agencies helped solve migrant workers’ problems in the area.
“We have arranged food materials that migrant workers require to survive the lockdown period. We also provide cooked food to 3,500 people. We will supply food kits to 2,000 workers in the next couple of days. Currently, there are no issues relating to migrant workers in Perumbavoor,” he said.The district administration has also started a call centre dedicated to addressing issues faced by workers from other states. People who know Hindi, Bengali, Odiya, Assamese and Malayalam are appointed at the call centre.
A similar migrant worker cell is functioning at the office of the Ernakulam Rural Police.
Meanwhile, Binoy Peter, an expert on internal migration with Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development, said the state government should take migrant workers into confidence to stay back when the lockdown is lifted.
“The Kerala government is providing the best possible facilities for migrant workers,” he said. “However, due to fear, people will attempt to move to their native places once the lockdown ends. This will have a severe impact on both migrant workers and industries in the state. They should be made aware that, instead of rushing back to their respective states, they can earn well once the lockdown is lifted. Returning home will also put their family members in trouble.”