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Ensure vaccination for cane harvesters: Maharashtra’s sugar commissioner to mill owners

Around 5-6 lakh harvesters, mainly drawn from the districts of Beed, Jalgaon, Nandurbar and Ahmednagar, annually migrate to the sugar mills across the state.

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune |
January 3, 2022 11:38:50 pm
With vaccination starting late among these harvesters, most have only received their first dose. (Representational)

Maharashtra’s sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad, in a letter, has directed sugar mills to ensure vaccination for migrant cane harvesters in their area. The letter assumes importance as most of the cane harvesters have migrated from their villages and might end up missing their scheduled date for the second dose, officials said.

Around 5-6 lakh harvesters, mainly drawn from the districts of Beed, Jalgaon, Nandurbar and Ahmednagar, annually migrate to the sugar mills across the state. These workers stay at makeshift camps during the cane harvesting season, starting post-Diwali and return home once the season is over in April-May. During this period, almost all able-bodied men and women migrate to harvest cane.

With vaccination starting late among these harvesters, most have only received their first dose. In November, The Indian Express had reported about workers fearful of missing out on their second dose.

Gaikwad, in his letter, pointed out the Central government’s push for universal vaccinations.

During the start of the season, most mills had asked for vaccination status of the harvesters, which was duly submitted by their mukadams. However, with states reporting lower number of Covid-19 cases around that time, the question of second dose had taken a backseat.

Meanwhile, many mills have started taking action on their own to ensure their staffers are vaccinated. Natural Sugar and Allied Industries officials said they have managed to vaccinated almost 80 per cent of their 3,500 harvesters.

Bhairavnath Thombare, CMD of a mill which operates units in Osmanabad and Yavatmal, said special camps were organised at the mill sites where almost all workers got vaccinated. “When government vaccines fell short, we procured vaccines on our own,” he said. Thombare said most of the beneficiaries got the first dose.

Communist leader Kiran Moghe said strict compliance of the commissioner’s order must be ensured. “Stock-taking of vaccinations must be done regularly to ensure harvesters get their doses on time,” she said.

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