Twenty-four migrant workers were arrested on Sunday after attacking a police team and setting ablaze the police van, who had arrived to resolve a clash that had broken out among the workers on Christmas night. Later on Monday, the police arrested twenty-six more in connection to the case, raising the number to fifty migrant workers. The incident took place at the labour camp of Kitex garments located in the Kizhakkambalam area on December 25 night.
On Saturday night, the migrant workers lodged in camps clashed in groups in the premises over Christmas party celebrations. They allegedly attacked the police who arrived to resolve the clash and burned three police vans. Two cases have been registered concerning the case: the murder attempt case for the attack on the police, and the second related to destroying police vehicles. Kitex Group managing director Sabu M Jacob said that the security at the camp could not control the situation, and as a result, the police were called in.
The labour Camp Has 1,200 Migrant Workers
"The workers from Nagaland and Manipur conducted a Christmas carol on Saturday night at the camp… As it was late at night, another section of workers questioned the event, leading to a clash among the workers. The incident is unprecedented at the camp. They might have gone on a rampage under the influence of drugs or liquor," Jacob was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
Apart from the police investigation, the labour department would also probe into the incident. With the blame game at play, the CPI(M) and Congress blamed Kitex, which has been ruling the Kizhakkambalam village panchayat since 2015, for the incident. "When the [state] government acted upon the complaints from local people against the workers, Kitex tried to raise a hue and cry saying that the government is harassing investors and hence, the officials had to recoil from the inspections at the company," Local CPI(M) legislator P V Sreenijin told the Express.
Migrant Situation In Kerala
The total number of migrant workers in Kerala is estimated to be 31.4 lakh, which constitutes 26 per cent of Kerala's total workforce, says a study sponsored by the Kerala State Planning Board, as reported by the Deccan Herald. Though the migrant workers, on average as paid around Rs. 3,500 lesser than native workers, they are happy working in Kerala as their pay is higher than that of working in their native lands. The lower wages are one of the prime reasons the employers prefer migrant workers to native workers.
In 2010, Kerala was the first state to introduce a social security scheme for migrant workers. In the Kerala Migrant Workers Welfare Scheme, the migrants are given multiple benefits like accident coverages, education allowances, housing schemes, and plenty others. But when peeked into the implementation, many workers were unaware of the schemes and could not avail the benefits of any of the schemes. In addition to discrimination of wages, the migrant workers are also exposed to ostracized behaviour from the residents and police as well, where the bias scale is tilted towards the migrants for being 'outsiders.'