Amid increasing Covid-19 cases and fear of another lockdown, rice mill owners in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are taking all possible measures to avoid the repeat of last year’s labour shortage by dissuading their workers from leaving to their native places this time.
According to some estimates, more than 1.5 lakh migrant workers from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal among other states are engaged in the 2,200-odd rice mills of Telangana.
Offering free lunch within the mill compound, separate sheds for accommodation, providing vegetables for cooking, installing fans and air coolers to tackle summer heat are some measures employed by the owners to incentivize workers to stay back, reports The Indian Express.
“To get them back last year, we paid for their train fares among other things. We don’t want them to go away again now, but they are worried that there might be another lockdown and they would be stranded here,” said Manchu Venkateshwarlu, a rice mill owner in Miryalaguda.
“To remain safe from Covid-19, I have asked them not to venture out of the mill compound. We are providing free lunch at the mill so that they do not go out in the afternoon and we have set up additional sheds for their accommodation. We have also provided sanitisers and masks. In the coming days, if necessary we will provide dry rations too,” he said.
“As the Covid-19 situation worsens, they are worried if they would be able to go back to their families, and their discussions are all about Maharashtra and night curfews,” said Gampa Nagender, President of Telangana Rice Millers Association.
“Also, we are getting RT-PCR tests done if anyone has symptoms. If someone tests positive we get them treated. But if one batch from any rice mill decides to go back, all of them will follow and we won’t be able to stop them. Our efforts are to prevent panic among the workers,” he added.
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