Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan yesterday said a protest by migrant labourers in Kottayam district shouldn’t have happened and those behind it would “be brought to book”.
“It was a purported act by vested interests, out to create trouble. It would be dealt with strongly. Kerala considers migrant labourers as ‘guests’.We have taken all steps. There are over 5,000 camps housing over 1.70 lakh of them,” Vijayan said.
“When they said they wanted to cook their own food, we supplied them provisions. Despite all this, it happened at Payipadu. We will bring to book those behind this,” said Vijayan.
As of now, he said, they cannot return to their villages.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked all to stay where they are, he added.
Earlier in morning, over a 1,000 migrant labourers from various states gathered at Payipadu near Changnacherry in Kottayam district in violation of a nationwide lockdown and demanded that they be sent back home.
They also staged a protest but were chased away by police.
Local legislator C F Thomas said though there were no complaints about food or accommodation, the migrants wanted to return home.
“Payipadu has been a central place for migrant workers for long. Every day, they converge there and then move to their respective work locations. A series of meetings have taken place in the past few days. Almost 50% of workers have returned. But the rest who had made arrangements to travel back to their homes were unable to do so due to the lockdown and cancellation of all trains,” said Thomas.
Kottayam District Collector Sudhir Babu said until recently the migrants had raised no issue.
“Till Saturday, they never ever raised any issue. The demand that they wanted to go home surfaced only today. The issue will have to be discussed in view of the lockdown,” said Babu.
However, Payipadu village council member Sibi said the migrants were facing trouble in getting food and accommodation.
“I am seized of the issue. These labourers are finding it tough arranging food and accommodation. They are brought to Kerala by agents who have washed their hands off the matter. That’s the real issue,” said Siby.
State Bharatiya Janata Party chief K Surendran said workers were “restless because they are not getting food and accommodation. Hence, they want to go home.”
Meanwhile, Vijayan yesterday sent a letter to Modi and later phoned him, requesting that the borders between Karnataka and Kerala in Mangalore and Coorg remain open for the movement of patients and goods.
Vijayan said in a statement that after he spoke to Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah called him and assured him of action.
“The border at Mangalore has been closed, inconveniencing many patients from neighbouring Kasargode in Kerala.
Similarly, the Coorg entry point is the gateway of Kannur district to Karnataka, which has also been closed, disrupting the movement of essential items. Shah has assured us that things will be sorted out,” said Vijayan.
The chief minister yesterday said even though federal minister Sadananda Gowda had assured him, there was no breakthrough.
Yesterday a patient who was not allowed to be taken to Mangalore near Kasargode was taken back, and died later.
Since Thursday night Karnataka has closed the routes, fearing the spread of Covid-19 as Kerala has the highest number of positive cases in the country.
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