With the third Covid-19 wave looming large, Kerala has initiated a mission to vaccinate the highly vulnerable migrant labourers, who number in several lakhs.
Being unorganised and remaining floating are the major challenges involved in vaccinating the migrant labouers. Even though around 5.9 lakh migrant workers had registered for Aawaz medical scheme offered by the Kerala government, the labour department can now trace only 2.9 lakh migrant workers so far for vaccinating.
The state labour department is trying to track the migrant workers and collect their data through various measures like offering food kits at their camps and conducting the registration.
Kerala labour commissioner S Chithra told DH that vaccinating the workers would be a tedious task. Labour officials at the grassroots level are trying to track them with the help of NGOs. Those working in organised sectors like construction and plantations were being vaccinated with the help of the labour contractors and plantation owners.
She also said that so far the rate of infection among migrant workers was very low, and only four migrant workers reportedly died due to Covid-19 in the state so far.
Sources in the labour department said that a major chunk of the migrant workers in Kerala would be involved in footloose jobs and many may also be lacking a valid identity card. Hence, tracking all of them was very challenging. Moreover, scores of migrant workers who returned to their native places were likely to return in the coming weeks.
Benoy Petre, executive director of the Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development, a NGO working among the migrant workers, said that Kerala could be the first state to initiate such a drive to vaccinate the migrant workers. Chances of Covid spread among the migrant workers was very high as they live in camps and use common facilities like toilets.
Migrant workers in Kerala come from mainly from places like West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, UP, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Chhattisgarh. There were also reports that many illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were also present in Kerala under the cover of migrant workers.