Movement of Migrant Workers Across Odisha May Defy the Lockdown

Bhubaneswar: As the nation is currently going through the second phase of nation-wide lockdown to cease the spread of coronavirus pandemic, lakhs of migrant workers from Odisha, who are stranded in other states due to lockdown for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Odisha Government has set up a benchmark when it comes containing COVID19 and also, in inter-state coordination with a well-calibrated strategy to help Odia migrant workers, stranded in different parts of the country. Many of the migrant workers are employed as skilled and semi-skilled workers in different states, the largest concentration being in Gujarat.

In order to facilitate the redressal of issues of migrant labourers from Odisha stranded in different states, Odisha government has set up a 30-line help centre for Odia workers stranded in other parts of the country. Nodal officers comprising of senior officials from the State of Odisha have been coordinating with other state governments to make food available to migrants trapped in their respective states.

AsitTripathy, IAS, Chief Secretary, Government of Odisha said: “Taking into account the large number of Odia diaspora throughout the country, we came up with a helpline and a web portal to help the migrant Odia workers in distress, due to lockdown, in different states to register their issues which are then relayed by the nodal officers, who are senior IAS, IPS officers of Odisha government, to the appropriate authorities in different states for necessary action.  Odisha is the first state in the country to work out an efficient system of conveying hardships of Odia migrant labour and channeling relief to lakhs of them through the respective state government machinery, in different parts of the country.”

Sanjeev Chopra, IAS, Principal Secretary, Home Department, Government of Odisha said: “We were able to anticipate the large scale distress among migrant labours due to the lockdown. Our 24×7 help line and the portal for facilitating relief to Odia migrants started functioning from March 26. This has enabled us to record, track and monitor each and every call and provide detailed information to the concerned state to reach out to people in distress.The system has been structured in such a way that only after the confirmation of relief by the callers themselves, their cases are closed. Our team at the call centre is also trained by psychiatrists to counsel the migrant labourers in distress and help them through this difficult period.”

This system of facilitating the redressal of issues of Odia migrant workers in different states from the state capital Bhubaneswar was not without its share of challenges. It is with the dedicated efforts and perseverance from the nodal officers and with the ready-made actionable data from the portal that was sent to the host state administration to act upon, the coordination between the nodal officers with other states’  evolved into a robust system of providing help to the distressed persons. This system of coordination has proved to be of great help in containing the discontentment among the migrant workers in states, which are also battling to contain the COVID disease itself. This practice that the Government of Odisha has put together has received recognition from The Empowered Group for Food and Logistics (EG5), Government of India who have marked it as a best practice for other states to emulate.