Odisha-based citizens’ groups demand coordinated migrants’ return

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With the plight of the migrant labourers emerging as a critical issue, eminent citizens, civil society organisations and advocacy groups in Odisha have demanded setting up of a National Task Force to deal with issue.

Also read: No lockdown for them: People in distress turn to helplines

Raising the recent violence involving the Odia migrant workers in Surat, a Citizens’ Action Group (CAG) on Corona, Odisha, said such incidents should be dealt with better inter-State coordination and a well-calibrated strategy.

Also read: Migrant workers’ protest turns violent in Surat

“We urge the Prime Minister not to lose time and set up a task force, which could oversee inter-State coordination, monitoring and resolution of issues relating to migrant workers,” said CAG co-convenor Umi Daniel here on Monday.

As per the Group’s estimation, there are more than 2.4 million migrant workers stranded in some 50,000 camps. They were eagerly waiting to return home as soon as the lockdown measures are lifted.

Mr. Daniel, an expert on migration said, “As the lockdown is in all likelihood going to be extended by a fortnight, we are not sure how impatience and anxiety will shape the behaviour of the workers.”

On the contours of the task force, it proposed that it should consist of representatives from key Union Ministries such as labour, home affairs, railways, civil supplies and consumer affairs and health and family welfare.

“The task force should hold periodic reviews and provide guidelines on handling issues relating to migrant workers. It should advise the labour sending and recipient States to exchange information about the stranded workers and coordinate their smooth movement,” the CAG mooted.

At the State level, the Naveen Patnaik government must constitute a special task force for coordinating and reaching out to migrant workers both in and outside Odisha, consider a special employment generation programme in urban areas and set up panchayat-level information centres for registration of returnees.

The government should design a special social and economic package for the returnees and the families undergoing self-quarantine. “Set up district-level helplines to educate on quarantine procedures, provide mental health support and access to government support,” demanded Manas Ranjan Mishra, convenor of Group on Corona.

The Jan Adhikar Manch, a rights activist group, said, “Workers have spent more than two weeks in relief camps and shelters and there is no sign of infection. The government should conduct tests on an emergency basis and help them return to their respective homes.”

“The Odisha government should coordinate with other State governments to ensure that migrant labourers are given two square meals a day and safe accommodation till they are sent to their homes,” said its convenor Biswapriya Kanungo.

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