The migrant workers in Kerala contribute greatly to the state’s growth and constitute a major proportion of the economic sector.
While most of the Malayalis go abroad in search of jobs and better lives, around 25 lakh migrant workers currently reside in Kerala engaging in manual work in various sectors. A majority of the migrant workforce comes from West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Uttar Pradesh working in hotels, restaurants, construction and other businesses. Relatively higher wages compared to their home state is what lures them to Kerala. Taking up the small percentage of the employment opportunities that remain shouldn’t be opposed by the Malayalis. At the same time, it is the responsibility of the government to prevent the escalating anti-social and unhealthy behavour among the migrant workers. The crime rates among them are on an increase with several shocking incidents of burglary, abduction and murder involving the migrant workers recently surfacing in the state. Narendra Kumar, a migrant worker in the state hailing from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh was convicted in the murder of three members of a family in Parampuzha, Kottayam. He was captured by the police near his home. The fact that drug addicts exists among such workers increases anxiety. Another incident of these migrant workers acting as carriers in Hawala trasactions recently came to light. The state government should carry out a check on these workers who engage overtly and covertly in such illegal activities.
The migrant workers reside in unhygienic circumstances with poor housing and living conditions and the rooms would be crowded with no proper facilities for toilet, washroom or kitchen. Due to the poor living conditions of these migrant labourers, the Health Ministry carried out an inspection in their camps and work places across the state as part of ‘Safe Kerala’ campaign to prevent the outbreak of contagious diseases. Nine of these migrant camps not conforming to the hygiene standards were ordered closure notice last week. The officials also issued a notice to 1148 camps that lack proper hygiene and sanitation facilities. The management of wastes including plastic and other solid wastes in the camps and its premises pose a grave threat to the environment as well as public health. According to the health officials, 150 migrant labourers were suspected to have filariasis and 25, to have leprosy. While 25 children haven’t had any immunization cover, 305 were found to have had partial immunization. Tobacco products banned in the state were also seized from 54 locations. The report had earlier revealed that the number of the migrant workers who already suffer from infectious diseases arriving in the state were on a hike. The Health Ministry had conducted the inspection based on the reports and should be carried out frequently to eradicate the diseases completely.
The exact number of people arriving in Kerala from other states in search of jobs is not known even to the local self governments. The authorities should keep precise records of the migrants residing in different localities in the state. The agents who bring the migrant workers to the state should also maintain the essential documents regarding their details. The lack of such documents gives rise to many legal and ethical issues. The authorities could not be held responsible for an accident or death of the migrant employees in work places and various allowances to be received from the government would also be lost. The registration of the migrant workers landing in Kerala could be made compulsory by the government and ID cards could be issued to them. They should also be made aware of and alerted against the exploitation by the employers.