BHUBANESWAR: Lakhs of migrant workers, returning from other states, appear to be the worst hit by the ongoing coronavirus scare and enforcement of the lockdown.
Most workers who travel in search of livelihood are not registered and hence apprehensive of not getting any Government assistance during the current crisis.
More than 15 lakh migrant labourers from 22 districts, including Ganjam, Kendrapara, Balangir, Sundargarh and other parts of the State, move to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for a six month period beginning October.
Just about 1.4 lakh of them are registered under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.
“Many Odia labourers of Western Odisha are engaged in brick kilns in south India and usually return during May but most started rushing back home since last week of February. In villages of Balangir and Nuapada, many homes have more mouths to feed amid unavailability of work and growing uncertainty,” said Neeru Thomas, Odisha Project Director of International Justice Mission that works on migration-related issues in the State.
According to Labour and ESI department sources, the Government is yet to take any decision on providing financial assistance to these workers though Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has urged the Centre to take measures to provide aid to daily wagers.
He has also requested for an economic package to support workers in different sectors.
Meanwhile, suspension of train and inter-State bus services to prevent coronavirus spread has come as a double whammy for several labourers who failed to return to the State. Around two-three lakh migrant workers are still outside Odisha, sources said.
General secretary of BJD Shramik Samukhya and former chairman of Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (OB&OCWWB) Subash Singh said the migrant labourers have been advised not to panic and stay in their places for tackling of the situation effectively.
Director of Aide et Action South Asia Umi Daniel urged the Government to provide assistance to migrant workers either financially or in-kind to help them overcome this situation.
He also requested the firms and contractors to take the responsibility of providing support to these workers and their families, and create awareness among them to check spread of the virus.