Maharashtra’s Tribal Development Minister K C Padvi has written to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, complaining about the treatment allegedly being meted out to tribal workers from the state who are stranded in Gujarat during the lockdown.
In his letter, Padvi has alleged that tribals from Maharashtra are being treated as “bonded labour” and not allowed access to basic amenities in Gujarat.
Padvi, who is also the guardian minister of the tribal district of Nandurbar, said several tribal workers from Nandurbar and Palghar are stuck in Gujarat due to the ongoing lockdown. These people are workers of sugar mills, construction sites, brick-kilns and other commercial establishments, especially in Saurashtra, Kutch, Rajpipala and Navsari areas of Gujarat.
Most of the labourers have lost their jobs, and the commercial establishments did not “take responsibility of wages” during the lockdown period, the minister said in the letter.
On their way back, these labourers were facing issues such as local residents “treating them as untouchables” and refusing to cooperate, Padvi stated in the letter. Many of the workers didn’t even have access to food and lodging, he added. “They are not treated as simple labourers but as bonded slaves,” the letter read.
The tribals were being treated like “slaves” by the authorities and local residents, claimed Padvi. “You are even denying access to essential commodities from shops to my tribal brothers and sisters,” the letter read.
Asking for intervention by the chief minister himself, Padvi said it was important that the tribals be treated well and proper arrangements made for them. He also asked for action against the establishments which had allowed the tribals to leave and withheld their salaries.
Located on the border between Gujarat and Maharashtra, the district of Nandurbar sees seasonal migration of labourers to various establishments in the neighbouring state. Most of them travel to work in the sugar mills and brick-kilns of the state. Because of the nationwide lockdown, these tribal workers have been stuck in Gujarat, unable to come back to Maharashtra.
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