By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, March 29 (IANS) The J&K Labour Department has set up helplines for migrant labourers who arrived here before the lockdown was announced, according to officials, here on Sunday.
The J&K Information Department tweeted: “The Labour Department sets up 24X7 helpline numbers for migrant labourers who arrived in J&K prior to the lockdown announced in view of #COVID19. S Shafi (8899546373) & Ansar Ahmad (7006286174) for the Kashmir division, and Shivika Sharma (9149691329) & SP Singh (7051986422) for the Jammu division.
However, the migrant labourers’ plight needs more than just setting up the helpline.
On Saturday, a couple from outside J&K was thrown out by the landlord in the Kulgam district. The houseowner said he had no option but to tell the couple to vacate because of the pressure from neighbours who threatened saying the couple carried the coronavirus to the Valley.
“I have been treating the woman as my daughter and would never tell them to vacate. But what can I do? I am an old man”, he said.
The couple was thrown out despite that they carried a government hospital’s diagnostic sheet that said the couple had been screened and were free of any coronavirus symptoms.
The police is believed to have intervened to provide shelter and food to the couple who reportedly lived in the bathroom of an abandoned bus stand without food for two days.
There are scores of such labourers who could face the prospect of being thrown out of rented accommodations, provided by contractors and brick kiln owners to employ them in their businesses.
It would be unethical to remove them to isolation/quarantine centres on the pretext that they would be provided food and shelter there. They need to be housed in makeshift accommodations and then screened or tested in a systematic manner.
Washing hands by just herding them into an isolation/quarantine centres would be unethical since most women among these have children too.
Given the scenario, the Labour Department has a Herculean task ahead since the number of such migrants runs into hundreds.