THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The rising number of Covid-19 cases among migrant labourers returning to Kerala has forced the state government to frame specific guidelines for their arrival. To keep a tab on the migrants, the government has said that individual migrant labourers (footloose labourers) should bear the expenses for their Covid test in Kerala and have to undergo room quarantine for 14 days after alerting local authorities. The decision will have a direct bearing on the migration of workers to the state on two counts, experts feel.
While testing migrants for Covid-19 is imperative, given the volatile situation in the country, fixing the liability of the test on them may prove counter-productive as the migrants -- who use various transit modes to reach the state -- would try to skip the test or conceal their travel details.
Around 34 per cent of the migrant population in the state are footloose labourers, for whom bearing the cost of the test would be a huge burden. Tamil Nadu natives account for the highest number of footloose labourers as they can travel back and forth in short intervals.
Crossing the border is never a big deal for them. The second aspect is that making it mandatory to pay for the Covid test will set off a contractor- driven migration, which is infamous for exploiting workers with stringent conditions and restrictions on movement. The state, so far, has been witnessing a social network- driven migration in which chances for exploitation is relatively low.
Benoy Peter, executive director, Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development, told TNIE that many travel agencies are charging migrants Rs 1,000 for merely registering their names with the state government’s Covid Jagratha portal. “If payment for the Covid test is made mandatory, the migration of workers to the state would be affected severely and the chances of returning migrants skipping the test becomes very high. Further, it is discriminatory to slap the migrants with the testing cost when Keralites don’t have to pay for the test,” he said.
Guidelines for migrants
- Rapid Antigen Assay-based Covid-19 testing to be made mandatory for all migrant workers
- on arrival in Kerala
- If tested positive, they should be admitted to CFLTC/Covid hospital based on severity
- If negative, the workers need to be in room quarantine for 14 days
- Symptomatic workers, who are negative in antigen assay, should be subjected to the RT-PCR test
- The contractor/agent/entrepreneur or the individual guest worker — if independent —shall bear the cost of testing