• By Kirity Roy

Chennai: Two civil society groups have written to the Principal Secretaries, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal government to hurriedly rescue a group of 13 migrant workers from 24 Paraganas district, West Bengal, who are stranded in Madurai Tamilnadu after being treated very shoddily by their employers.

The 13 workers were employed by NAHI Construction Private limited in Madurai. The contractor who had hired them had fled to an unknown destination and the construction company had evicted them from the construction site.

In the letter written to the secretaries, Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, (MASUM) & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) said, “currently the conditions they are living in is detrimental to the precautionary guidelines to be maintained in fighting Covid-19 which calls for immediate steps to free these people from such a condition.”

It is learnt that before fleeing the contractor had not been properly paying the workers, and the money that they used to receive for food too had stopped. Thereafter, the contractor has absconded along with the money he took from the Construction company.

The 13 workers are now living on the streets, at a time when lock-downs are in place in many parts of the country to contain the second devastating wave of Co-vid-19 pandemic.

The 13 are also sole bread winners of their families back home. The groups have asked the secretaries to arrange for their travel back, provision of essentials and food and economic aid. They have also forcefully asked for strict action against the NAHI construction company for heartlessly putting the workers out on the streets during the time of a deadly pandemic that has already taken 8.5 lakh lives – a bare minimum estimate.

The Central Government and State Governments have been trying hard to collaboratively fight this pandemic from the last year and have issued guidelines to take strict precautionary measure in order to completely eradicate Covid-19 pandemic. We have painful experience of 2020 in the COVID pandemic. These migrant labourers are still struggling for food and shelter in an unknown state where they were cheated by the contractor and construction company. They are struggling without food as the labour contractor fled away and Construction Company drove them out.  This period of crisis will not be overturned without a collective assistance, hence this letter of plea is sent to you for immediate action to rescue them for this crisis.

It is of prime importance that the Central Government and the State government take appropriate action to help the victim to avail the train and return back home safely.

They should be immediately provided with proper food and drinking water as they have been completely starving for few days.

As the families are solely dependent on the victim, therefore the liability lies on the government to provide economic aid to the family during this period.

They also need travel expenses to reach their home must be borne by the Government completely.

Stern action should be taken against the NAHI Construction Company who did not show any human attitude towards these migrant labourers and immediately booked Mr. Mintu Pal, Contractor and prosecuted under proper penal provisions and directed to pay them for working in the construction company for last four months.

Kirity Roy is Secretary, MASUM and National Convener, PACTI