Fearing lockdown, migrant workers in TN begin returning home

·2-min read

Chennai, Apr 20 (PTI) With stricter restrictions in place to contain the spread of coronavirus in Tamil Nadu amid a sharp spike, guest workers across various sectors fearing further increase in infections and a lockdown have started leaving for their home states.

Many have started queueing up at the Central Station here to take train back home.

Among them is a 22-year old Rohit Kumar from Patna, who recently came to the metro.

With cases zooming past 10,000 for the third day in a row, night curfew kicks in from today in the state, as announced by the government on Sunday.

'The government feels lockdown is essential to prevent the spread of the virus. Ok, but what about our livelihood' Kumar asked.

A helper in a packaging unit here, he says he wants to go home before a possible total lockdown is clamped and movement is completely restricted.

'There is no point in staying here. I want to go home before it's too late, he adds.

Like him, Rajinder Rai of Ambala is keen on returning home soon.

'I have been waiting at the Central railway station here since yesterday as I am unable to a get ticket to Delhi.

I hope to head straight to Ambala from Delhi,' he said.

Rai has been working at a construction site in suburban Chennai and claims he shudders at the thought of getting stranded in the metro as several thousands of workers had during last year's lockdown.

The Tamil Nadu government had on Sunday announced fresh restrictions including enforcing night curfew from April 20 between 10 PM and 4 AM and total lockdown on Sundays to contain the spread of the virus.

The second coronavirus wave has not impacted the construction sector so far largely because many construction firms have provided accommodation to their workers.

'There may not be big impact since there is no major exodus from the construction sector as of now,' asserts S Sridharan, Chairman, Affordable Housing Committee, CREDAI (National).

However, the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector is facing a peculiar problem. Both self-employed entrepreneurs and workers have become insecure and clueless on the way forward, claims K E Raghunathan, convenor of Consortium of Indian Associations.

'On the one side, corona impact is severe and making those who got it, run for life. On the other, work orders have stopped and cash flows have come to a standstill.

Migrant labours have started leaving,' he claims.

To make matters worse, raw material prices have shot up and activities at the units have stopped as movement of materials have become unpredictable.

'As the industries are severely impacted, state and central governments must immediately constitute a task force to handle livelihood loss with experts from MSME and address impacts and solutions to each segment, which are affected by restrictions as per needs,' Raghunathan says.PTI JSP SA SS PTI PTI