Rayagada: It’s back to the square one for thousands of migrant workers who had rushed back to their homes in Odisha’s Rayagada district from their workplaces in cities in South India to escape the Covid-19 fury.
Lack of jobs, hunger and the sheer apathy of the district administration in their homeland is driving them back to their places of work, even as Covid-19 cases continue to surge.
Nearly five months since the pandemic struck forcing the government to impose a nationwide lockdown in phases triggering a wave of reverse migration from Southern Cities to this remote tribal-dominated district of Odisha, many labourers had hoped to start their life afresh in their home district.
Over the last few days, continuously, hundreds of migrant labourers from different parts of the district are returning to their workplaces in cities in Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
As many as 55 migrant workers from the district boarded three buses heading for Tamil Nadu today, while the Labour department remained a mute spectator.
These migrant workers boarded buses sent by the authorities of a spinning mill from Tirupur in Tamil Nadu.
“There is no job available in Rayagada district. The government has failed to provide jobs. It’s difficult to sustain our families,” alleged Jiva Naukrika, a migrant worker from Utkapadu, who had boarded a bus to Tirupur.
“A spinning mill owner of Tirupur has sent this bus to take us back. The mill owner pays Rs 400 for an eight-hour shift. In addition to that we are provided with three mills a day and rooms to live,” Naukrika added.
“We were working in that company before the lockdown. We had returned home because of the lockdown. I am going join work at Armstrong Mills, Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, it’s a spinning mill. Now since the lockdown has been lifted and mills are running we are going back to join work,” said another migrant worker from Utkapadu who had also boarded the bus to Tirupur.
“Here in our home district, we are not getting any work. Without work, it is very difficult to run our families. The company used to pay us Rs 400 for an eight-hour shift. In addition to the wages they used to give us three meals a day and rooms for accommodation,” he added.
Despite an order of the State Government to provide jobs to the migrant labourers on their return to their home district under MNREGS, use of earthmoving machines in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) projects has deprived the migrants of getting jobs.
The State Government had directed district collectors to take up more employment-intensive projects for migrant workers under the MGNREGA and Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM).
The government had also decided to take up employment-intensive projects such as the creation of farm pond, nutri-garden, trench around all forest areas, large scale plantation, fodder cultivation, horticulture, sericulture, field bonding and water-shed development.