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Gram Vikas supports migrant labour from Odisha stranded during Kerala floods

NEWS

By GV News Desk

31 October 2018

The unprecedented floods that inundated Kerala affected a large number of migrant workers, some of whom were from villages that Gram Vikas has been working with. We supported the migrants and their families stranded during the floods.  

“Everywhere it’s just water. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where I am. There is nobody here who speaks my language. I want to come back home,” this was the desperate voice of a young man from Thuamul Rampur block in Kalahandi, who contacted a Gram Vikas staff member over the phone from Kerala in August 2018.

The unprecedented floods that inundated Kerala affected a large number of migrant workers, some of whom were from villages that Gram Vikas has been working with. As part of the preparations for our work in Safe Migration, the project team of Gram Vikas in the Indravati Cluster had been in touch with some of these migrant workers. One of them relayed the distress message to a Gram Vikas staff member.

A rapid assessment showed that the flood affected 70 youth who had migrated to Kerala from six villages of Thuamul Rampur block in Kalahandi. Most of the workspaces had shut down and people had to evacuate to relief camps. In the process, these youth, who stayed together normally, separated and found themselves among Malayalam speaking people, making it impossible for them to communicate. Absence of a mobile network and electricity meant that they could not contact their friends or family.

As an immediate response, Gram Vikas set up a telephone control room at the Bhubaneswar office. The control room had both Odia and Malayalam speaking staff, who were on hand throughout the day. 

Two staff members travelled to Kerala to find out the whereabouts of the persons stranded in Kerala. In coordination with local organisations and support of the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID), the team met with the Odia youth in Kerala, provided them counselling support, and in some cases, connected them to their work supervisors.  

The team kept the families in Odisha updated on their whereabouts. The team visited different places in Thrissur and Ernakulam districts. Over a seven-day period, the team contacted 57 persons from Thuamul Rampur block including some who were still in the relief camps. 

The devastating floods terrified most of the youth and they wanted to come back to Odisha. The team counselled and convinced them to stay back to avail of the job opportunities that were already coming up. 

Mahendar Naik, of Tangiri village, had reached Kerala just a few days before the floods. When the team met him, he was doing post-flood cleaning work. “I am doing this work to save some money for the train journey to Odisha. I really need to go back home immediately. I am terrified of the situation.” But the team was able to convince him to stay back and find safe work. 

Gram Vikas staff meeting migrants from Maligaon, Kalahandi district, Odisha in Thrissur Bus Stand, Kerala.

Photograph by Jobin Chacko

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