The announcement of the extension of the lockdown until April 30 has only added to the anxiety of migrant workers in Pune. The district administration, civic bodies and Pune Police have stepped up counselling and surveillance at temporary camps, where an estimated 37,600 migrant workers are stationed.
According to the district administration, there are 161 shelter homes in the district, of which 51 are being run by government bodies and 110 by sugar factories. A total of 3,413 migrant workers are stationed at shelter homes run by government bodies while 24,216 are housed in those run by sugar factories.
Officials from the Pune Municipal Corporation said residents of these shelter homes, operating out of various schools in the city, are a mix of the homeless, destitute and migrant workers.
“From the beginning, while talking to residents at these shelter homes, we have stressed that they are better off at shelters and if they leave, they won’t get food, shelter or medical assistance and, worst of all, they won’t be able to return home (in case of migrants) as every mode of transport was closed,” a senior officer said.
Pune Zilla Parishad’s Sambhaji Langore, who is coordinating the management of shelter homes set up in rural areas of the district, said since Sunday, officials such as tehsildars and block development officers have been asked to step up efforts at shelter homes and arrange for counselling for stranded workers.
“We have about 20 camps in rural areas. Since yesterday, local senior officers are visiting the camps and informing residents that they have no reason to worry as they will all be looked after till the end of the lockdown. We are making them aware that all district borders have been sealed, and they won’t be able to go to their hometowns and, hence, the best option for them was to stay at these shelter homes where they get food and other necessities,” said Langore, project director, District Rural Development Agency.
Most residents of these shelter homes in rural parts — such as in Daund, Shirur, Koregaon Bhima, Chakan, Wagholi — are from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
At some shelter homes, said Langore, television sets had been arranged for as a source of entertainment. “Some enthusiastic shelter in-charges are also arranging for other sources of entertainment such as karate classes and bhajan and kirtan programmes. These are being done by ensuring social distancing,” Langore said.
Senior police officials from Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune Rural jurisdictions said they were closely monitoring the situation of groups of workers stranded at their settlements or those who have been settled at various shelters.
Deputy Commissioner of Police of Pune City, Bachchan Singh said, “There has been a recent example in Surat where a group of migrant workers resorted to violence over various demands. We are trying to ensure at the ground level that welfare of stranded workers is taken care of. While district administration is making all possible efforts, staff from different police stations has been tasked to monitor the situation of workers at settlements and shelters.”
Police teams are also checking whether any person or groups have shown symptoms of COVID-19 and are also ensuring basic social distancing norms and safety.
More than 10 days ago, the district administration had started a special cell for the redress of various grievances of stranded migrant workers. The officials from the labour department and the directorate of industrial safety and health have been tasked to collate the data of stranded workers across Pune district.
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