NAGAPATTINAM: Farmers and farm labourer representatives have requested the Central and State governments to initiate a special scheme for health insurance for them for coronavirus.
Farming and farm works have now resumed in Tamil Nadu’s delta districts after the State government go-ahead. Workers are looking for more opportunities to work in fields of their respective villages or those nearby. Their representatives, however, have raised concerns about guaranteeing their health and welfare while working in the fields as the coronavirus tally keeps increasing.
“Farm labourers have to toil more than others. They need to work to earn their daily bread but also have chances of becoming ill if they come in contact with machinery, shovels, crowbars, basins or vehicles like mini-trucks, and tractor-trailers, as they travel in groups. It is hard to find protective gear in rural areas. Workers like them need an insurance scheme for this virus so they can get treatment or in case they die,” said SC Ganapathi, a farm labourer representative.
Thousands of farm workers are unable to avail protective masks and sanitisers, even though they have been declared essential commodities. Men and women turn up at work with handkerchiefs or pieces of cloth in place of a mask. These are reused and not often washed. They can only wash their hands and maintain social distancing at work. “There is already the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme and Prime Minister’s Insurance Scheme. But are they sufficient or updated to insure the health of everyone against a disease like coronavirus which can spread through community transmission? There is already a lack of awareness at the rural level. Farm workers and other labourers need to be covered and insured,” said V Ramalingam, a Thamizh Maanila Vivasaya Thozhilaar Sangam leader.
Farmers across delta districts are presently cultivating pulses such as urad and mung beans. They are also cultivating crops like cotton and groundnut. Some are doing summer paddy cultivation in places like Thalaignayiru in Nagapattinam district. Farm workers are engaged in transplantation of saplings, spraying pesticides, weeding, reaping, threshing collection and packing.
T Rajasekar, a retired divisional manager of an insurance company based in Thanjavur, said, “Insurance is basically sharing of risk by stakeholders. Life insurance should be for everyone but there is lack of awareness at the rural level.”