April 3, 2020 12:24:55 am
Around 6.54 lakh migrant labourers of Jharkhand are stranded in various parts of the country, according to the latest data of COVID-19 response team of migrant labourers. The state government has received more than 17,800 calls of distress from these migrants in the past seven days.
The Indian Express had reported on these stranded labourers when their number had crossed over 3 lakh.
Sources in the government said the migrant labourers are facing major food and health issues. A source in the Jharkhand Department of Labour said: “The relief services provided to the migrant labourers are for a shorter period, which needs to be extended to a longer period, at least during the lockdown period. There is also a need to increase health services support.”
A secretary, who has been made in-charge of a state where migrants are stranded, said on the condition of anonymity: “The number of stranded people is increasing and assistance is slow. Every day we send messages to respective DMs, but their response is not up to the mark. Ideally, there has to be some discussion between CMs if assistance can be provided in a planned manner like sending funds among others.”
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Jharkhand Chief Secretary Sukhdev Singh said officials have been appointed to look into the matter. “Even the numbers of these secretaries got leaked and they are receiving thousands of calls. As for the helplines, the calls have decreased from 6,000 per day to 2,500 after a lot of efforts were put into giving them help. There is a general anxiety among all of them to come back.”
On the numbers, he said: “They may be some repetition, but labourers stranded are in lakhs.”
Asked if there have been any Chief Secretary-level talks as a matter of policy, he said: “This issue has been raised during a video conference with Cabinet Secretaries. There was a long discussion and everybody agreed that that money is not an issue and there was a general consensus that we should not think of statehood of the people before feeding. However, from Jharkhand’s perspective, there are some states where the response is not up to the satisfaction of the labourers—and this number is large.”
He said that in some states CSs directly ask the DMs to intervene and in others the help is directly sought from DMs. “Like in Maharashtra, they said that it was not possible to reach out to each and every one as the numbers are very large. They have started community kitchens and the numbers have been shared among them. In some states they are sending cooked meals… But despite best efforts one needs to understand that there is a limit to which we can do for the people stranded in other states. We can only bring it to the state’s notice.”
The labour department has recommended an effective institutional mechanism for connecting with larger civil society to reach out to the migrants. It also recommended cash transfers. “Since most of the people are locked for a considerably longer period, the problems around cash and food have grown manifold. Therefore, with a proper institutional mechanism, some cash transfers can be thought of,” the Labour Department has recommended.
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