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Thiruvananthapuram, March 29, 2020
In violation of the lockdown in force in Kerala, over a thousand migrant labourers hailing from various states on Sunday gathered at Payipadu near Changanacherry in Kottayam district and demanded that they be sent back home.
A few hours after they had staged a protest, police in large numbers chased them away.
Since Sunday morning, hundreds of migrant labourers were gathering at Payipadu and raising slogans to demand their return to their native villages while the police looked on.
Local legislator C. F. Thomas said that though there were no complaints of food or accommodation shortage, the migrants wanted to return home.
"Payipadu is a central place for migrant workers for long. Every day, they converge there and then move to their respective work locations. A series of meetings have taken place in the past few days. While almost 50 per cent of them have already returned, the rest who had made arragements to travel back home were unable to do so due to the nationwide lockdown and cancellation of all trains," said Thomas.
Kottayam District Collector Sudhir Babu told the media that till the other day the migrants had raised no issue.
"Till yesterday, they never ever raised any issue. The demand that they wanted to go home surfaced only on Sunday. At the moment, the issue will have to be discussed in view of the lockdown," said Babu.
But taking a different stand, Payipadu village council member Sibi said these migrants were facing trouble over availability of food and accommodation.
"I am seized of the issue. These labourers are finding it tough arranging food and accommodation. These labourers are brought to Kerala by agents and put up in accommodations after charging money. Now, the agents have washed their hands off the matter and that's the real issue," said Siby.
State BJP president K. Surendran said while Kerala witnesses hype over various issue, the real ones are not addressed.
"They are restless because they are not getting food and accommodation. Hence, they want to go home," said Surendran.
This public upsurge has come at a time when Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked authorities to treat migrant labourers, whom he addresses as "guests", with respect.