Amid alleged rumours that migrant workers were attacked and beaten up in Tamil Nadu, state Labour Welfare and Skill Development Minister CV Ganesan Monday said officials were closely engaging with migrant labourers. Addressing reporters in Tiruchirapalli, Ganesan added that around six lakh migrant workers are currently working in the state and on the direction of CM MK Stalin, each district administration was carrying out a survey to gather information on migrant labourers.
According to Ganesan, Stalin has instructed officials of the labour department, local bodies, the police and other stakeholders to take steps to protect workers, especially in areas like Tiruppur, Erode, Coimbatore, and Nilgiris.
As per a Press Information Bureau (PIB) report published in April 2022, based on the 2011 census, there are over 34.87 lakh migrant labourers in Tamil Nadu and of this 7.13 lakh are women. Instances of assault and abuse on migrants are common across the state.
What has triggered the issue of migrant safety in Tamil Nadu?
In the last week, several alleged fake messages have been spread about attacks on Bihari migrants in Tamil Nadu.
Several videos were doing rounds on social media which alleged that migrant labourers were being beaten up brutally in Tamil Nadu. The state government of Tamil Nadu and Bihar have both issued a warning against spreading such messages.
The Tamil Nadu police also issued a statement clarifying that Bihari migrant workers were not being attacked in Tamil Nadu. Many news channels allegedly misreported these misleading claims.
What is the video in question?
In a recent viral video on social media, a man was reportedly seen abusing and assaulting three migrant workers on a moving train in Tamil Nadu. Shortly after the video went viral, the Tamil Nadu railway police registered a case under sections 153 A, 323, and 294 (B) of the IPC in relation to the episode and are on the lookout for the alleged assaulter.
In the purported video, the man WAS seen verbally and physically abusing migrant workers in a jam-packed unreserved compartment of a moving train posted by right-wing supporter Karthik Gopinath. The two-minute-long video showed the man asked one of the travellers if he was "Tamil or Hindi", following which he lashed out at him and a couple of other co-passengers. He continued assaulting his fellow passengers, accusing the migrant workers of stealing away local people's jobs in Tamil Nadu despite repeated calls to stop, as reported earlier.
Who has been arrested?
The Chennai Police has registered a case against Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai for inciting violence and promoting enmity between two groups after he linked the ruling DMK to the spread of rumours about migrant workers.
In a series of tweets, Annamalai shared a video and termed the case against him ‘false’ and dared the police to arrest him. “You think that you can suppress democracy by filing false cases. I give you 24 hours and dare you to arrest me," he said, roughly translated from Tamil.
The police also registered cases against two journalists of a Hindi daily, Bihar BJP spokesperson Prashant Patel Umrao, among a few others for spreading rumours.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi sought to assuage any apprehensions of migrant workers in Tamil Nadu. The workers need not panic, the Raj Bhavan said in tweets posted in Tamil, English and Hindi."Governor urged the North Indian labourers in Tamil Nadu not to panic and feel insecure, as the people of Tamil Nadu are very nice and friendly, and the state government is committed to provide them security," Raj Bhavan said on its official Twitter handle.
Tamil Nadu CM reaches out
Reaching out to the migrant workers' community in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister MK Stalin on Tuesday interacted with a group of labourers.
Mr Stalin visited Kanam Latex, involved in making hand gloves, in the district and interacted with the migrant workers, enquiring about their well-being, an official release said.
He discussed with them about matters like how long they were staying in Tamil Nadu, if the local people treated them well and whether they had to face any issues.
The workers told him they had a good work atmosphere, some were staying for more than five years in Tamil Nadu, many with their families, and that the local people were treating them with brotherhood, the release added.
The workers told him they did not have any fears and that they felt safe like staying in their native places, while acknowledging the help extended by the state government, it said.
"The CM asked them not to fall for rumours and that the state government was providing workers from all states safe work environment," the release said.
Action by the police
A four-member team of officials from Bihar on Saturday left for Tamil Nadu to look into the allegations. According to the statement, the team will meet the Chief Secretary, the Director General of Police and other top officials of Tamil Nadu besides visiting Tiruppur district from where reports of attacks on Bihari migrants have surfaced.
Notably, two members of the team, D Balamurugan and P Kannan, hail from Tamil Nadu and according to sources in the state government they have been chosen so that "internal feedback" could be obtained, without facing problems of language.
The Police Headquarters also released helpline numbers issued by the Tamil Nadu police. However, returnees from the southern state are saying that they have come back for Holi festivities and would not like to go back to work if the situation did not improve.
(with PTI inputs)