With the lockdown set to continue until April 30, concerns are rising in the state government about the increasingly untenable situation of large numbers of migrant workers in the state, who were prevented from walking back to their homes in other states, and have taken shelter in relief camps, as well as in other places, across Maharashtra.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday raised the issue of over 6 lakh migrant labourers in the state, in the video conference with PM Narendra Modi, asking if the Centre was planning to take any decision on what to do with them as the lockdown is being extended till April 30.
As per the statement issued by the Chief Minister’s office, Modi said that states should find out, after holding discussions with local industries, how the migrant workers can be given employment in the respective states where they are at present.
Sources said the issue of migrant labourers was also raised by other chief Ministers in the meeting. “Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh said the lockdown was strictly being followed by villagers who were not allowing anybody to enter in the villages in his state. Referring to Punjab CM’s remarks, Modi said that this may lead to another issue of workers returning home and not being allowed into their own villages. PM then advised CMs to convince the migrant workers in their states about the problems of villages barring entry, and make efforts to retain them where they are,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
Anil Deshmukh, Home Minister, who was present in the meeting, said that Thackeray put forth the issue in the meeting for deliberation on it and to see whether there is consensus among other CMs. “It was discussed in the meeting and one view was that whether one day exception could be made to transport them to their respective states. While some CMs agreed, others opposed it. Finally, it was decided to retain the migrant labourers where they are and convince them to continue living at the same place as the villages may not take them in,” Deshmukh told The Indian Express.
“Attempts may be made, wherever possible, about finding jobs at local level where the factory or an unit will take care of their jobs, meals and stay. This will help us to keep them in isolation, run the factories or units and keep them engaged,” Deshmukh added.
Another minister said that transporting the migrant labourers to their homes would have reduced the burden on the state administration.
A senior bureaucrat said two meals, nashta and medical facilities are being provided to migrant workers.
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“We are taking their best possible care and don’t see Surat like incident (where migrant workers turned violent and wanted to return to their home) happening here,” said the bureaucrat.
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