VELLORE: Tribal labourers belonging to Vellore and Tiruvannamalai districts said they suffered untold miseries with their children in the plantation estates in neighbouring Karnataka where they migrated for seasonal employment.
With the employers turning a blind eye to their woes, these daily wage earners had to bear the brunt of the lockdown since the end of March.
Children in the labourers' families suffered malnutrition as milk supply to the estates in Chikmagalur district was cut off due to the restrictions.
“Our employer did not support us by providing groceries or vegetables. We could not even buy milk for our children because it was not available in the area,” Vijaya, a tribal labourer, part of a group returned to Vellore on Saturday, told The New Indian Express.
M Parthiban, another labourer, rued, “We felt as if we were left alone in a jungle. Our employer just allowed us to stay at the labour quarters but did not give us any other help. We approached the local government authorities for helping us to return but they did not listen.”
Finally, the authorities arranged transportation for them to get back home after much hassle but they had to cough up a huge amount. “The Karnataka government just arranged the e-pass and vehicles. But we had to pay Rs 4,000 per head for transportation charges,” he stated.
Parthiban said he had earned Rs 20,000, along with his wife, working in the estate for about six weeks before the enforcement of the lockdown which drained his savings.
As many as 97 tribal labourers from Vellore and Tiruvannamalai districts returned to Vellore on Saturday. They were received by government authorities including Block Development Officers (BDOs) P Imayavaramban and A Vincent Ramesh Babu at Odukathur. Swab tests were also taken for them.
Tamil Nadu Minister for Commercial Taxes and Registration KC Veeramani visited the labourers and distributed rice, grocery items, dhoti and sari.
Having lost their seasonal jobs in the plantation estates, the labourers have become a worried lot now. They may not get jobs in their hilly hamlets to eke out a livelihood.
“In the estates, we would have got a job for three or four months but now we lost it. We had some money in the purse but that too has run out. It is difficult to get some job here to earn wages for running the family,” Parthiban lamented.