KOCHI: The life of Odisha native Munna turned upside down in just a few days. “We have been starving for the past three days. There is no food, water or other essential items. With the government announcing the lockdown, there is no work and we have run out of money.
The owners of the building where we live are asking us to pay the rent or leave. There is no one around to help us. We want to return home,” said the 32-year-old migrant worker who lives at Nettoor in Maradu municipality here. He could not hold back his tears while describing his ordeal.
Munna is among the nearly 400 migrant labourers from Odisha stranded at Nettoor. They have been knocking at the doors of the authorities for the past three days seeking help to return home. With no transportation available, they sent a video message to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seeking help to return home.
“My daughters, aged two and four, and my wife have been calling me and asking me to come back. There is no work here,” said Munna, who is the sole breadwinner of his family which also comprises his mother. Odisha native Durastam, 32, has the same story to tell. “We have been stuck here for a week without any work or resources. We are virtually starving. We urge the Odisha Chief Minister and ministers to evacuate us from here at the earliest,” he said.
With the state coming to a standstill, migrant workers have been hit the worst. Most of them earn a livelihood through construction works and other small-time engagements. Hence, there is no job contractor to help them. Besides Maradu, such labourers are staying in the Ambalamugal area, taking up small jobs. Munna said the group comprises people aged between 25 and 50 and all of them are in panic. While a few used to cook their own food, others depended on eateries and hotels. With those closed, they have nowhere to go for food.
Help arrives in evening
Following the request by their families, the Odisha Labour Department contacted the Kerala government. By Thursday evening, the state Labour Department intervened and a team under District Labour Officer (Enforcement) V B Biju visited the spot on the instruction of Additional Labour Commissioner (Enforcement) K Sreelal and distributed food items to them.
“The workers were happy with our intervention. The district administration has assured them all assistance,” said an officer with the Labour Department.