Faced with acute shortage of food and other facilities, thousands of migrant labourers mostly drawn from Bengal took out a protest at Payippad in Kottayam district on Sunday. According to eyewitnesses, they were also demanding travel facilities to return to their home states.
Meanwhile, district authorities rushed to the spot and tried to disperse the mob, promising food items and other essential materials.
The massive protest has exposed the false claims of the state government which had gone on a Pan-India PR drive, saying it had made special arrangements for migrant workers. Payippad, a small township has over 10,000 migrant labourers, most of whom live in congested single-room accommodations housing 5-10 people in each room. A district official put the current number of migrant labourers to 5000 as rest have left for their home town before the lockdown. The state government did not make any arrangement to provide them their ethnic food items, it is alleged.
Sanjeeb Mondal, a mason from Siliguri, said they were facing acute shortage of food items and wanted to go to his native place. “We are left with no money or food. We did not have food for the last two days. We want to go back home,” he said.
Meanwhile, the district administration managed to disperse the protesters, promising food and other facilities. The state government has also deputed a senior official of the rank of principal secretary to look into the issues of migrant labourers in the state.
“This is a tight slap on the face of Finance Minister Thomas Issac, who boasted about the ‘humanitarian measures’ taken by the state government to take care of the migrant labourers in the state and criticizing the central government for mishandling of migrant issue in Delhi. They know only one thing: propaganda and they have the support of media in this exercise,” said Hari, a local journalist.