The labour ministry has dismissed as “untrue” media reports of mass exodus of workers, especially migrant labour, to their home states amid the third wave of COVID-19. It further said the Centre as well as state governments are keeping a close watch on the scenario and are fully prepared to deal with any situation.
“Some media reports of mass exodus regarding movement of migrant workers to their home States were found to be untrue and it was also noticed that such reporting was based on old photographs,” the Ministry of Labour and Employment said in a statement.
In view of the prevailing pandemic situation arising out of the Omicron variant, Union Labour Secretary Sunil Barthwal chaired a co-ordination meeting with states/UTs on January 12 through video conferencing to take stock of their preparedness in respect of workers in general and migrant workers in particular, it added. Additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries, secretaries of state labour departments and labour commissioners of all the states/UTs, as well as officers of the Ministry of Railways and Department of Food and Public Distribution participated in the meeting.
According to the statement, the state governments informed that barring night curfews and weekend curfews at few places where COVID cases are rising, there were no restrictions on construction activities, business activities, running of shops and industrial activities.
So far, there is no report of unusual movement of migrant workers owing to the limited restrictions imposed by the governments, it stated. As on the day of review, the business situation is normal throughout the country except 50 per cent restrictions on workforce at some places, the ministry added.
The central as well as state governments are keeping a close watch on the scenario and fully ready to tackle the situation. Some state governments have already made plans for distributing dry ration to the needy labourers, if required, the statement said. Some have made preparations to provide financial assistance from the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) cess fund and social security fund available with the states.
Railways is also keeping a very close watch on the situation, particularly at the major railway stations in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Secundrabad, among others, and ready to provide special trains in case the situation demands. All the states/UTs have been advised to keep a close liaison with the local railway authorities, the ministry said. State Labour Commissioners confirmed that the functioning at construction sites, factories and establishments has remained undisrupted and there is no exodus of workers, especially migrant workers, back to their home states, it stated.
The statement further said both the labour supplying and labour receiving states were advised by the Secretary to work in close coordination to tackle any situation. It was also pointed out by the Secretary that over 21 crore unorganised sector workers have registered themselves on the e-Shram portal.
All the state governments were requested to put in place a mechanism to maintain a record of migrant workers and register the remaining ones on the portal. This will facilitate the state governments to plan and deliver financial and other benefits to them at appropriate time. A total of 21 Monitoring Centres have been activated across the country by the Office of Chief Labour Commissioner (Central).
Toll-free helplines have been opened by the states. Director of the Department of Food and Public Distribution informed that there is no unusual spurt seen under ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ as far as ration pick up is concerned.
The states/UTs were also requested to maintain records of returnee migrant workers, if any. The states have also been asked to be wary of rumour mongering on worker exodus and take quick steps to counter such misinformation. They were advised to reassure migrant workers regarding their safety, security and livelihood, it stated.