An Investigative Report Highlights The Deplorable Conditions Of Migrant Labourers In Kerala
Kerala, in the past years, has become the gulf for migrant labourers. High literacy rate, better education, lack of professional and skilled jobs made many of the Keralites to look for white collar job. The shortage of manual power for doing tasks like construction works prompted the state to rely heavily on the migrant labourers. But they had slowly made inroads into other jobs too. They work as coconut climbers, paddy field workers, fishermen and even pet groomers. Most of the migrant labourers in Kerala comes from Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Most of them belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes.
But the plight of migrant labourers in the state is not much pleasant as it seems. They keep silence because they have no choices. Majority of migrant workers are not members of any trade unions or welfare schemes. They face limited social protection and hazardous working condition.
A Mathrubhumi news investigation reveals that the migrant labourers in the state are sidelined and exploited. When they go to a shop, Malayalees get priority, and they have to wait in the queue to buy things. The investigation reveals that there were instances when the migrant labourers were buried in public cemeteries, without even their kin being informed. Some people die in boats and their dead bodies are left abandoned in the sea.
The report indicates that they are denied proper health care in hospitals too. They do double works than Malayalees with fewer break times, but when it comes to wages, it is significantly less than what the locals receive and they face issues like non-payment and delayed payment. “If we get a ‘bhai’ to work, we are happy. They work hard. There can be people who are problematic, but we can’t generalise,” said a shopkeeper in Aluva to Mathrubhumi News.
George, a Kerala resident, who works with migrant labourers in Kerala says that most of them are exploited in one way or the other. “Some people were denied their wages and they have complained to the police. But Police is yet to take action. We have decided to protest in front of the companies which are yet to give wages”, George told Mathrubhumi News.
Kerala has nearly 25 lakh migrant workers, with 2.35 lakh workers coming every year, according to a 2013 study by the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation. There were instances when migrant labourers are accused of drug trafficking, sexual assault and robbery. Several of them found guilty. News like the murder of a couple and their son in Kottayam and killing of a toddy shop worker in Alappuzha and the most controversial Jisha murder case were some instances of crime committed by migrant workers create a tendency to stereotype them resulting into social stigma, and it creates multiple challenges for them.