With migrant workers in the district heading towards their native States, a help desk where volunteers fill-up the railway reservation forms and listen to the grievances of the workers, started functioning round-the-clock at Erode Railway Junction on Wednesday.
Run by the Rights Education and Development Centre (READ), an NGO based at Sathyamangalam, the desk is manned by three volunteers, who can read and write in Hindi. There are about 1.25 lakh workers from various States working in industries at SIPCOT, Perundurai, textile processing units and involved in other activities in the district. With spike in COVID-19 cases and fear of lockdown, workers started returning to their native through trains from the district in the past two weeks.
R. Karuppasamy, director, READ, said various problems were encountered during the first wave of COVID-19 last year when there was a mass exodus of migrant workers. Hence, to ensure that the situation does not arise, the help desk was started. Since trains are operated only with reserved coaches, workers face difficulty in filling-up the forms. “Staff fill-up the reservation forms after which workers reserve their tickets”, he added. Workers along with their family arrive at the station without knowing the train timings for their destination and wait at the station even for two days. “On an average 500 migrant workers arrive at the junction every day in the past two weeks”, he said.
Mr. Karuppasamy said that many workers complain of non-receipt of wages and the issue is forwarded to the labour department for necessary action. Also, face masks and awareness pamphlets on COVID-19 were distributed to them, he said and wanted a helpline number to be launched by the labour department for the benefit of the migrant workers. “Since many workers say that they will not be returning, staff also explain them on the Provident Fund (PF) claim process that can be made online”, he said.
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