For Kerala migrant workers are the partners of the development processes and therefore they are considered guests to the state, said Pranabjyoti Nath, Kerala cadre IAS officer from Assam.
Nath, who is now labour commissioner of the Kerala government, said among land, labour and capital, labour is the core in the development process.
He said this while participating in a webinar organized by Social Science Research Community (SSRC), India on Saturday.
The webinar was held on the topic ‘COVID 19 and handling of the migrants: Kerala Experiences’.
In Kerala, a non-negotiable consensus has emerged regarding the role of the guest workers which has been possible due to the responsive ecosystem that comprises of the state, political parties and the greater civil society, he said.
Nath, who assumed the charge as the Labour Commissioner in Kerala just before the outbreak of the COVID 19, handled 4.30 lakh guest workers in the state.
He took care of their food, shelter and transportation in convergence with all other related departments.
In the post COVID-19 period, Kerala set up three types of camps – relief camp; employer-contractor run camp; scattered camp (wherever they were, their homes etc.)
He pointed out that ‘the idea of camp was conceptual, rather than in physical terms.’
There was assistance provided in terms of health requirements, food and civil society played an active role in arrangements of food.
Even food preferences of people from different states were taken into account and the preferred food was provided to them.
Nath provided minute details of the migrants from different states including from Assam.
He pointed out that the dismantling of plywood industry in Assam acted as one of the important driving forces of labour migration from Assam to Kerala.
Chairing the webinar Manoranjan Mohanty, former head of the department of political science, University of Delhi pointed out that migrant labour issue in the country is as serious in the country as the pandemic itself.
The reality is that the incumbent regimes do not have a strategy to meet the needs of the poor and the labourers.
While arguing that Kerala model has been a central focus in the current discourse and debates, the pertinent question that needs to be asked is whether the migrants sending states too will develop an eco system ensuring their dignified livelihoods in their own states for the future generations.
Participating as a discussant Deppak Mishra, Centre for Regional Studies, JNU asserted that we should avoid overemphasis on the exceptionalism of Kerala.
He pointed out that Kerala as a federal state is much ahead of other states, in terms of human development and social security.
Bidyut Mohanty from the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi pointed out that the success of the Kerala government in dealing with the migrant labourers lies in the systematic data-matrix; decentralization and co-ordination/convergence of all departments.
Raising the gender concerns, he, however, asserted that the gender and other societal differentiations within the migrant labouers and the corresponding predicaments need to be taken care of.
The webinar, which started with a welcome note from Akhil Ranjan Dutta, president, SSRC, India, was moderated by Sreeparna Bhattacharjee (Assam University), Monalisha Roy Choudhury (Bikali College) and Sahana Bhattacharjee (Gauhati University).