Far from their
homeland in Assam, migrant workers in Kerala have no issues in staying back in God's Own Country during COVID-19 lockdown as long as they get jobs and money in their pockets.
Workers, employed in shops and establishments or factories and taken care by their employers, are largely happy to stay back while the daily wagers who have no permanent jobs and hit by COVID-19 lockdown desperately want to return.
"I have no problem here. We are having work and are getting paid. Our accommodation has been taken care of", Jakari Ahmed, hailing from Nagaon district in Assam, told PTI.
The 21-year old man, working in a Aluva-based house construction company for the past eight months, said he came to Kerala seven years ago and was very happy to be in the state. He was earlier employed elsewhere.
Asked if he was keen to return to his home state, Ahmed's response was: "Only if there is any problem here. There are no issues here and we are happy to be working in Kerala."
Ahmed says he misses his family, particularly now with Ramzan round the corner.
Normally during Ramzan he visits his parents. This time due to the lockdown, it was not possible, he said adding he does miss his mother's home cooked food.
Asked if he was missing Assamese cuisine, Ahmed said they cook fish, chicken and vegetables and have started liking Kerala food also.
Echoing Ahmed's views, nineteen-year-old Jurul Islam, who came to Kerala seven months ago, said he was happy to be here as there was work.
"In kerala we are getting food and work. We do not want to go back".
Jurul said he does miss his parents and other relatives.
"There are times I feel like going back. But there is no train now", he rued.
"I speak to them. They are calling me. There is lockdown. .. how will I go?' Jurul, also from Nagaon, asked.
The two are working forAbdul Razak, who is engaged in house construction, activities relating to car parking areas and structural works. There are at least four others from Assam working for him.
"None of them have gone back. We have given them place to stay, food and extra Rs 3000 is being given to them a week. So they are extremely happy to be here", he told PTI.
Even though the Kerala government has offered accommodation and food, Razak said he was very particular that his workers should not mingle with too many people during lockdown to minimise chances of infection.
They have been toldto keep themselves indoors as much as possible for their own safety, he said.
The other section of migrants who depend on jobs on daily basis, and known as footloose workers, had been hit hard with no work during the lockdown.
Some of them said COVID-19 situation in their villages has been same as in Kerala and want to go back to their state as there was no point in staying back without jobs.
Manuel from Udalguri district of Assam has been jobless since the announcement of lockdown and keen to go back home although he feels safe in Kerala. "We feel safe in Kerala. In our village also people are safe. So there is no difference", says Manuel, a representative of footloose workers.
"We are not getting any job after lockdown announcement. So we want to go back to our state," he said.
Manuel, who is currently in Kottayam looking for a job for survival, however, said some people who were getting jobs, particularly in the construction sector, wanted to stay back at least for two to three months in Kerala and earn some more money.
"If I get a job tomorrow, I will also try to stay back here for 2-3 months to earn some money. Because I don't have a single coin in my hand now. No point in hanging around here being jobless," Manuel said.
Kerala Labour Minister T P Ramakrishnan said the state doesn't want its "guest workers" to go back and assured all rights and benefits for them on par with the state workers.
"They will be given legal protection too," the Minister told PTI.
The Minister also said the state will continue to provide all facilities to guest workers once they return to Kerala after COVID-19 scare gets over.
Benoy Peter, associated with an organisation taking up the cause of migrant workers, said a study conducted by them in Kerala has revealed that a majority of these workers want to go back to their states as their job security was at a risk due to COVID-19.
"Footloose labourers are in absolute distress due to the lockdown announcement. They don't have jobs and they want to go back to their states," Peter, Executive Director of the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development, a non-profit organisation, told PTI.
According to the Kerala government, over 42,000 guest workers have left the state by the special trains arranged for them to reach their native places.
The highest number of workers who returned to their state is from Bihar -- 11,157. "We expect at least one lakh guest workers will also leave the state very soon," the official told PTI.
Over 4.1 lakh guest workers were accommodated in 22,000 camps set up by the government for them to ensure their safe stay during COVID-19 lockdown period.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)