COVID-19 lockdown: Maharashtra sugarcane cutters to return to own villages

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April 21, 2020 2:37 AM

The order also directs the village sarpanchs (heads) to permit these workers to enter their villages, and to make an official note recording their entry.

The order also directs village sarpanchs to permit these workers to enter their villages, and to make an official note recording their entry. Maharashtra typically sees migration by labourers after Diwali from drought-prone Marathwada, especially Beed district, to work in the sugarcane fields of western Maharashtra. (Representative image)

The Maharashtra government has decided to allow over 1.3 lakh migrant sugarcane workers to return to their native villages, after proper medical examination to ensure that the move won’t undermine the efforts to contain COVID-19. The sugar mills will arrange and bear the expenses for their transport.

As per a directive issued on Friday, as many as 38 sugar mills which employed these workers will give the authorities details such as native village, tehsil and district of the labourers to facilitate the movement. These workers and their families have been living in the shelters provided by the millers for more than 14 days.

“They will have to undergo a medical check-up and the list sent to the collector of their present residence and to the collector of the native district,” according to the directive.

The government has ordered sugar factories to make arrangements to transport the sugarcane cutters. Factories are directed to have medical examinations conducted to check for symptoms of pneumonia, cough and fever, in the absence of which, travel arrangements are to be made for their return.

While the district magistrates (DMs) have been instructed to initiate the process, the factories are required to bear the cost of their transport, and the food and water required during the journey. In order to facilitate the passage of their vehicles through the curfew, factories have also been directed to intimate the police and the local authorities of the districts they will be passing through, in advance.

The order also directs the village sarpanchs (heads) to permit these workers to enter their villages, and to make an official note recording their entry. Factories will have to take the receiving report from these sarpanchs and submit the same to the DMs, confirming to authorities that these workers have reached back to their villages.

Maharashtra typically sees migration by labourers after Diwali from drought-prone Marathwada, especially Beed district, to work in the sugarcane fields of western Maharashtra. The season lasts till March. This year, they have been unable to travel back home due to the lockdown.

BB Thombare, president, Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA), confirmed that most of the workers are currently in Western Maharashtra where some factories are still crushing cane. Once the administrative process is complete, they should be leaving for their villages soon, he said.

Maharashtra Rajya Ustod Mukadam Vahtuk Sanghatana president Srirang Bhange said that this process could take another three to four days and the shifting of workers should begin soon.

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