ROURKELA: As many districts in Odisha are struggling to deal with the surge in migrant workers returning from Gujarat, Sundargarh seems to be emerging an outlier. Migrant workers from the district are not as keen as others to come back even though the western State is a hotbed of COVID-19.
Against registration of around 40,000 migrants of the district since May 3, only 3,500 workers have returned so far. On Thursday, a special train from Tamil Nadu brought back only 13 workers of Sundargarh. The low turnout of migrants has left the administration both perplexed and relieved.
Sources said, more and more migrants are having second thoughts about return as the lockdown relaxation and opening of workplaces has once again provided them job and livelihood. The thought of having to undergo 28-day quarantine on return to Odisha is also a dampener for them.
Tribal youths Budei Oram, Bandhu Ekka and Subodh Kullu, tribal youths of Barilepta in Nuagaon block, are engaged in fish farming in Surat. They said like them, 400 other workers of Nuagaon are working in pisciculture sector in Gujarat.
“All of us have decided to stay put. During the lockdown, we didn’t face any difficulty as our employer took care of our needs. We have also been provided with regular work in a safe environment,” they said.
Former sarpanch of Hathibari Shankar Tirkey said with the easing of lockdown restrictions, many migrant workers stranded in other states are unwilling to return. Besides, the migrants are also reluctant to spend money for their return only to land in a quarantine centre.
Sundargarh Zilla Parishad president Emma Ekka said opinions are divided among migrant workers about returning to Odisha. She said those having jobs or assured of resumption of work have stayed put while there are many who are desperate to return.
Unlike the workers of Nuagaon, a group of about 250 migrants from Sundargarh engaged in pisciculture in Karnataka recently contacted her and about 150 of them have returned on their own, he said.
Project director of District Rural Development Agency BS Patel said with the resumption of train services, the number of returnees would increase.