Around 95,000 migrant labourers left Himachal Pradesh during the lockdown till June 23, said a report released by the Himachal Pradesh Workers Solidarity (HPWS) on Saturday.
Quoting information obtained from the state disaster management authority, the report said that 14 shramik trains carried around 13,000 people out of the state while the remaining workers left by other means. “More than 80 per cent of the migrants took the road route on their own expenses after obtaining e-passes for private transportation while the number of people who walked on foot is not yet known,” said a statement by the authors of the report entitled ‘Invisible Architects of Contemporary Himachal’.
The statement said that Himachal Pradesh, in the context of migration, is different from neighbouring Uttarakhand as the rate of in-migration is slightly higher in the state as compared to out-migration. “After the 1980s, expansion of industrial activities in the Shivalik hill region, multi-level infrastructure and development projects, tourism, and growing local interests in horticulture cash crop farming made Himachal an emerging centre for in-migration,” it said.
It added that workers from Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Kashmir constitute the bulk of the migrant population in Himachal today.
HPWS said that it ran a helpline for stranded workers during the lockdown, and many of them complained of hurdles in getting adequate ration. “Many workers had not been paid their wages and their savings had died out in payment of room rents and ration, even as debts kept piling up,” said the statement by the group. It added that as a result, many of them were forced to walk back home but were put in quarantine centres when caught.
The group has recommended provision of housing facilities for migrant workers, hostel facilities for seasonal labourers, setting up of grievance redressal centres up to the panchayat level as per Supreme Court directions, strengthening of labour courts, and mandatory registration of all migrant labourers working in the state.
HPWS is a “voluntary solidarity platform” formed in April 2020 to provide assistance and support to migrant workers in the state.
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