KOCHI: In the wake of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arresting three suspected Al-Qaeda activists who were masquerading as migrant labourers in Ernakulam, the Kerala Police are considering making use of the vast biometric database of migrant labourers prepared by the Labour Department for policing. The department started collecting biometric data of the migrant workers in the state as part of the Awaaz health insurance scheme. The state police have decided to go in for a heightened surveillance to track migrants with criminal history and verify authenticity of identity cards being presented by them for address proof.
As of January 2020, over five lakh migrant labourers had enrolled for the state government’s Awaaz scheme. While the highest enrolment of 1,08,645 was in Ernakulam, the lowest of 11,545 was in Wayanad. Though there were attempts by the police to collect fingerprints and identification details of migrant labourers earlier, human rights activists had raised protests against the same. The activists had alleged that the move was an infringement on the privacy of a citizen who has the right to work in any state of the country.
“Even a directive making a police clearance certificate from their home state mandatory for migrant workers coming to Kerala was scuttled by a few labour contractors, who bring in migrants from West Bengal,” said a senior police officer. Additional Labour Commissioner Sreelal K said the state police had asked for the biometric data of the migrant labourers which the department had collected for the insurance scheme.
Inspector General of Police S Sreejith said the department was also working to develop an app for collecting the details of the migrant labourers. “The Labour Department had said that they could share the database with the police,” he added.Jananeethi executive director George Pulikuthiyil said biometric data collection of migrants from other states was a breach of their privacy. “Being citizens of India, they have the freedom and right to work anywhere in the country,” he said.
As per rough estimates, there are nearly 25 lakh migrant labourers in the state. “A majority of them are coming here to eke out a living. But many criminals are using the labourer tag as a cover to hide in the state. We are planning to enforce verification of the identification documents of the migrant labourers once the app is ready,” said a senior police officer.