It seems English is not the only language Congress MP Shashi Tharoor excels at. In a recent video on Twitter, the MP can be heard speaking fluent Bengali to address migrant workers from West Bengal living in Kerala.
A week since the imposition of a 21-day national lockdown to counter the spread of coronavirus in India, migrant workers across the country have been plunged into a severe crisis. With jobs drying up and food running out, the past week saw a mass exodus of workers from across India who took to their foot to make long and arduous journeys home, even in the absence of public transport.
While the exodus raised grave questions regarding the government's lack of preparedness for accomodating marginalised sections of the country during the lockdown, it also posed and continues to pose a severe threat to public safety by exacerbating the spread of the virus.
With the government amping up efforts to contain the migrant worker crisis many politicians and members of civil society have come forward to help migrants and offer support. And on Wednesday, Tharoor took to Twitter to talk to migrant workers from Bengal living in Kerala in their own tongue - Bengali.
Addressing the workers, the Kerala MP said, "I understand the conditions are tough. But you need to understand that at present, it is impossible to cross any state borders as all of them are closed". He added that the Kerala government has assured food, water and other supplies to migrant workers at this time of crisis. "It is my request to each one of you, wherever you are, just stay there," he added. The entire speech was read in Bangla.
Though it seemed clear that the veteran Congress leader was reading from a script, the message won him a fair share of applause on social media. Many Bengali Twitter users complemented Tharoor's fluency in the language.
Phod Diya. Wah. Daroon bangla sir. Rui maach er kalia khawabo aapna ke. 😁👏👏— Kaushik Burman (@kaushikburman) April 1, 2020
Such fluent Bangla.... impressed. Your English is legendary (without dictionary impossible to understand). Hindi is quite fantastic. And now Bangla.... just amazing.— Terminator (@Termina54303923) April 1, 2020
His early years were in Bengal. More of a Bengali than a Malayali, at least till recently 😊— Jay Ambadi (@jay_ambadi) April 1, 2020
Some, however, chose to criticise the message, claiming not many migrant workers were following Tharoor on Twitter. However, Tharoor was quick to clarify that the message had actually been recorded at the behest of a media house which would be broadcasting the message on their platforms.
Tharoor is not the first politician to appeal to Bengali migrant workers in Kerala, many of whom took to streets in the past week to demand safe transport back to their home state. In wake of rising discontent, Trinamool's Member of Rajya Sabha Mahuna Moitra also appealed to the migrants to stay put.
On March 26, Bengal Chief Minister wrote to the 18 state governments including Kerala under CM Pinarayi Vijayan, asking them to take care of migrant workers from Bengal.
Meanwhile, several human rights violations have come to light in the wake of the mass migrant exodus. From being sprayed disinfectant to being punished, even death, migrants and daily wage workers are facing the worst of the coronavirus pandemic which has already claimed 38 lives.