Sugar mills in Maharashtra will soon have to share details of migrant cane harvesters working in their area with district health officers. This, sugar commissioner Shekar Gaikwad said, will allow health officials to ensure children and women among migrant labourers do not miss their scheduled inoculation.
The sugar season in Maharashtra is marked by the migration of at least 10 lakh cane harvesters, mainly from Marathwada and North Maharashtra. Mostly, the migration starts after Diwali and the labourers return home after the season ends, usually in April-May. At least 60 per cent of the labourers are estimated to be women, who bring their children along with them. Mills deal with labourers through contractors who accept advance payment.
On an average, these migrant labourers stay out of home for at least six months in temporary accommodation provided near the mills. Given the long period of migration, children who accompany their parents often end up missing their inoculation schedule, like pulse polio dosage. Also, lack of any system to track such labourers often hampers the efforts of health authorities to ensure the children receive their inoculation dosage even in the place of migration.
The problem is acute in Beed, which houses a majority of the labourers. Health officers mark children having missed their proper course of vaccines. This brings down the human development of the district and the state. Deputy chairperson of the legislative council and senior Shiv Sena leader, Dr Neelam Gorhe, had recently taken up the issue of health check-ups and access to proper toilets for such labourers.
Gaikwad, while talking about the initiative, said mills will be asked to prepare a list of the migrant labourers along with their village of origin. The list will be shared with the respective district health officers, who will then share the children’s inoculation details. “Mills will be asked to ensure the children are properly inoculated from the nearest public health centre (PHC),” he said. Mills will also be directed to conduct three health check-ups of the migrant labourers during the season.
The programme will be implemented in coordination with the labour commissioner and the state health department with the sugar commissionerate coordinating the mission. “A month before the start of the next crushing season, we will hold a meeting of the chairman and managing directors of the mills and ask them to take make the necessary arrangements,” he said.