Take more action for justice to Odia migrant workers: Activist Prafulla Samantara to Odisha CM

The environmental activist wrote to CM Naveen Patnaik asking him to provide free travel to migrants apart from ensuring that they get free rations

Activist Prafulla Samantara

Last week, following the Odisha High Court’s order that stranded migrants be brought into the state only after their Covid-19 tests were conducted in the host states and only those testing negative be allowed to return to Odisha, the Surat district administration cancelled departure of trains from Surat to Odisha. This created a huge unrest among the migrants stranded outside the state wanting to return home and seeing this, the Supreme Court stayed the Orissa High Court’s order.

So far, almost 55,916 stranded Odias have returned to Odisha and over lakh more are set to return during the next few weeks. However, even now lakhs of migrants are stuck in Surat, Bangalore and many other states waiting to return home. In light of this, Prafulla Samantara, President of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan, environmental activist and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize (2017) has written to Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha appealing him to take more action for justice to Odia migrant workers.

In his letter, Samantara says that he would like to draw the CM’s attention to make his positive actions more effected and necessary arrangements for migrant workers of Odisha in different states. He writes, “Even now there are lakhs of Odia workers in Surat, Bangalore and many cities of different states who had beenwaiting to get trains to return to their homes. Still many of them are being deprived of getting any food or ration, even they are not getting free train tickets to come.”

He adds that though the Central government promised to cover 85 percent of the ticket charge for the migrants, the same has not been implemented. He also mentioned that the reserved train to Odisha was cancelled as the Ganjam district administration did not give clearance.

Urging the CM to take action, he wrote, “Therefore your intervention is necessary to pressurize the railway ministry to provide the free train for our workers of Odisha. I have received a letter along with photocopies of booked tickets from Odia workers in Surat of Gujarat which informed that they needed more trains from Surat to come.” He also requested the CM to direct the government of Odisha to provide transport to the workers who reached the borders of Odisha on foot from other states.

He also suggested that if the return of the workers is delayed, the state government should provide each worker with at least Rs. 2,000 per month for their food. On return to the state, he suggested that people should be asked to home quarantine.

Another suggestion Samantara put forward was that “they should be scrutinized in quarantine centers after 7 days of staying healthy and that unaffected people be freed and allowed to stay inside their houses so that people returning to the state from outside can be accommodated in the limited quarantine centre waiting for early action.”

Prafulla Samantara’s entire letter may be read below.



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