No test, migrant workers head straight to fields - ECAS Punjab

No test, migrant workers head straight to fields

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Sukhmeet Bhasin

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, June 15

Farmers in Punjab's Malwa region are bringing migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for transplanting paddy, most of whom have not been screened for Covid-19. Neither are these farm labourers placed under quarantine, as is mandatory. Even more alarming, there are reports that some of them had earlier worked on farmlands in Maharastra, the state worst hit by the pandemic.

A farmer in Bathinda, Gurmeet Singh, said they did not have the option of getting the workers screened as time was running out. "Also, in the absence of experienced farmhands, we are sending buses to UP and Bihar to gather more workers, offering them much higher wages this paddy season", he told The Tribune.

Mohan, a migrant labourer from UP, said he had planned to return by March-end for harvesting wheat, but could not do so owing to the nationwide lockdown. "As soon as transport services were resumed, I boarded a bus for Punjab for transplanting paddy as there is hardly any employment opportunity at my village," he said.

Pointing out that migrants were arriving in the state in large numbers every day, BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) state secretary Shingara Singh Mann said the farmers engaging them for work faced the risk of being infected. "However, faced with labour shortage, these farmers have no other option," he observed.

He lashed out at the Punjab Government for failing to come to the aid of the farming community. When contacted, Bathinda Deputy Commissioner B Srinivasan said they had begun random sampling. "For now, we are taking samples of migrants showing Covid-19 symptoms," he said.

from The Tribune

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