Monday, 30th October 2017

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CM asks CMs to take care of migrants

The states to which she sent letters include Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh

  • Published 27.03.20, 3:51 AM
  • Updated 27.03.20, 3:51 AM
  • 3 mins read
With a broken brick, Mamata draws a social-distancing circle for shoppers at a market in Calcutta on Thursday. PTI

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday wrote to chief ministers of 18 states, urging them to extend food, shelter and medical support to thousands of labourers from the state who are stuck because of the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The states to which Mamata sent letters include Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

“Bengal has many workers, semi-skilled and unskilled, working in different parts of the country. Due to complete lockdown in the country for the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers from Bengal could not travel back and are stuck at different places.… Since it is not possible for us to reach any help to them, I take the opportunity to request you to kindly ask your administration to provide them with basic shelter, food and medical support during the crisis,” the chief minister wrote.

Sources in Nabanna said that Mamata sent the letters after the chief minister’s office received hundreds of SOS calls — over the past couple of days — from workers stuck in different states.

“Not only workers, relatives of such workers were also calling up seeking help from the state administration. But we hardly can rescue them due to the countrywide lockdown. We expect that all the states would extend support to the workers during the crisis after receiving the letter from the chief minister,” said a senior state government official.

The sources said that as the majority of the migrants from the state work in unorganised sectors in different states, it was unlikely that their employers would extend the required support after the announcement of the lockdown.

The chief minister’s office decided to intervene as the callers complained that they were not getting their wage dues after the lockdown was announced.

“This has left the workers in a vulnerable situation as they are facing trouble arranging food and shelter as they don’t have money…. Moreover, they are worried over getting medical support, especially those stuck in states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala and Delhi, where the number of affected patients is high,” said a top government official.

The chief minister mentioned in her letter that the Bengal government was extending the required support to all those who hail from other states and are stuck in Bengal during the lockdown. “We, in Bengal, are taking care of such stuck people in our state,” she wrote.

A senior government official said the state administration has been asked to extend all possible help to vulnerable sections of the society, irrespective of their place of origin.

“We have asked the police and district authorities that if anybody is facing trouble in arranging food during this tough time, they should organise food for them until the situation gets normalised. All medical support and basic shelter would also be provided to people if they are stranded here,” said the official.

Sources in the labour department said there was no database on migrant labourers from the state, which made it difficult to estimate the number of people stuck outside Bengal.

“Based on information received from the districts, it is clear that nearly half of the migrant workers came back to the state just before the lockdown. But now it emerges that half of the workers are stuck in different states,” said a labour department official.

While the chief minister’s initiative is being considered as a proper administrative approach, a section of the officials said the initiative could give her political dividends in the near future.

“The majority of the workers, who are stuck these days, are from districts like Malda, North Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Nadia and parts of Birbhum where the BJP has developed a strong foothold, which was evident during the last Lok Sabha polls. If the chief minister can ensure the required assistance to the stranded workers, it could be a game changer in these areas,” said a source.

Sources in Nabanna said a list is being prepared — based on the information received from the workers who are stuck or their family members — and it would later be sent to other states by chief secretary Rajiva Sinha.

“They are generally in groups of 50-100 and can be easily identified by the local administration,” the chief minister wrote in her letter.