Thiruvananthapuram: It was Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who coined the name 'guest labourers' and since then in government parlance, the migrant labourers in Kerala are known by that name.
Vijayan addressed them with that title when the nationwide lockout was declared last month on account of coronavirus.
These 'guests' are mostly from West Bengal and the northeast states and according to a study by the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation there are 2.5 million of them in Kerala.
Confirming this IG of Police S.Sreejith, who is spearheading the operations for rehabilitating them in the state on account of the lockdown, told IANS that the number would now have gone up.
"This 2.5 million are divided into three groups and it includes around 3.36 lakhs presently put up in around 18000 shelters (camps) across the state. The second group are people who live with their families and also those who live in their own accommodation and another group who were in their home state when the lockdown was clamped," said Sreejith.
He said that now some big companies have set up their own camps. There are around 4000 people in each camp who are taken care of by the companies.
"What the state government now does is while some workers are taken care of by providing essential food items and they do their own cooking, in some other places food is supplied from the community kitchens," added Sreejith.
The health department is doing health checkups.
These camps are under the control of the state police and the labour department.
In large camps, the state government has also provided recreation facilities where TV sets and provision for carom games are there.
The authorities have also come out with basic health guidelines to be followed during Covid-19 times in leaflets in various north Indian languages which are distributed in these camps.
Vijayan who keeps track of their daily needs through the officials said that one of their major demands was to return to their homes. He took this up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video conference, requesting for a non-stop train so that these 'guests' could return home.
But matters worsened on March 29 when at Payipadu in Kottayam district, hundreds of them got together and staged a protest but the police chased them away without using force.
Later it was found out by the police that they were instigated by external forces and the police has arrested two 'guests'. The police is expected to book the perpetrators.
An official on condition of anonymity said that so far everything is fully under the control of the authorities.
"But, how things pan out once the restrictions are relaxed and when the trains start to run is to be seen. A lot of those in the camps might wish to return, but from what we hear things are not that rosy in other states," said the official.