Long march home for migrant workers

Three workers from neighbouring Assam, who were working in the capital region, going back to Narayanpur. They said they ran out of food and do not have the number of the contractor they were working for.

Staff Reporter
ITANAGAR, Mar 30: Scores of migrant daily wage earners from neighbouring Assam who were working under private contractors in and around Itanagar have embarked on a long walk along NH 415 towards their homes in Gohpur and Narayanpur in Assam.
Migrant workers were seen on the road, leaving private contractors’ work sites in Rakap and Vivek Vihar areas.
“We are coming from Rakap village in Jote area. Due to the lockdown we have nothing to eat, so we are going back to our village in Narayanpur,” said one of the workers, Viswajit Doley.
“We don’t have the contractor’s number, but the caretaker said they would not be able to drop us because of the lockdown. So we have decided to walk,” said Pradeep Doley.
Another worker, Sunil Doley, said the contractor’s residence is in Itanagar. “He cannot accommodate us all, so we are returning home,” he said, wiping sweat off his face.
Surprisingly, none of the workers passed by the Hollongi check gate. On reaching the check post, this reporter found that there was no record of any migrant worker having left the state.
On Sunday, about 70 migrants from Haryana, Jharkhand and Rajasthan were rescued by the capital police. They were leaving on foot, using the jungle route to reach Assam, but were detained by the Assam police in Gohpur and later dropped back at Hollongi. A team led by Itanagar SDPO Kamdam Sikom brought them back to Itanagar and arranged food for them.
Contractors employing migrant workers have been tasked with the responsibility of taking care of the workers during the lockdown period. The chief secretary had issued an executive order to all the establishments, including contractors, on 25 March, stating that there should be no deduction in payment of wages/salaries of any person engaged in public or private sector establishments, shops and factories, in view of the lockdown.
“A large number of workers and labourers are unable to go to their workplaces for duty due to the lockdown. Such absence from duty cannot be construed to be willful absence as it has been necessitated by statutory and executive orders of the central and state governments,” the order read.
On being contacted by this daily, Labour Commissioner Ojing Darung said, “The permits of migrant workers are issued under the Interstate Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, for specific working period with nominal fees.
“However, there is no mechanism to identify whether permitted workers have gone back to their respective places timely or overstayed in Arunachal Pradesh with those allotted permits,” he said.
Reportedly, the Arunachal Pradesh Building & Others Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (APB&OCWWB) does not have provisions of benefits for migrant labourers working at ‘non-construction sites’ of private sector firms.
It is learnt that in the wake of the national lockdown, the principal secretary, the planning secretary, the labour commissioner and the labour secretary held a meeting here on 26 March to address migrant workers-related issues.
The officers had decided to write to the deputy commissioners to ensure the safety of the migrant workers, especially those who are not entitled to benefits from the APB&OCWWB.
Official sources informed that more than 10,000 contract labourers and migrant workers are registered with the labour department.
Meanwhile, the Papum Pare district administration has designated the urban development shopping complex in Yupia as a temporary relief camp to shelter homeless persons, including migrant workers, stranded in the capital region because of the lockdown.