Pune migrant workers stay put amid fears of another lockdown

Labour leader Nitin Pawar said that only 60 per cent of the over 2 lakh migrants who left last year have returned.

With reports of some migrant workers in Maharashtra leaving for their home states amid rising Covid-19 cases and fresh restrictions, labour leaders and union members in Pune say the city is yet to see any migration on a large scale.

Labour leader Nitin Pawar said one of the factors that has prevented migrants from leaving was the availability of work in the district’s industrial units. “At present we have not seen or heard about mass scale migration. We feel that a very insignificant minority around 5 per cent of such labourers might have left,” he said. Another reason, he said, could be the state government’s decision to allow industrial and construction units to function at full strength. “If the laborers have assured jobs they would not leave,” he said.

Last year’s lockdown was marked by large scale migration of labourers from outside the state after lockdown measures forced most business to shut shop. Working mostly in the unorganized sector, these workers meet the huge demand for labour in manufacturing and construction sectors. According to some estimates, over 2 lakh migrant workers had left the district at the beginning of last year’s lockdown, some even walking to their home states on foot. A majority of them hail from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

With Covid-19 cases on the rise again in Maharashtra, and growing talk of another lockdown, uncertainty remains among the labourers. However, Pawar said that only 60 per cent of the over 2 lakh migrants who left last year have returned.

Meanwhile, Chandrakant Salunkhe, founder president of SME Chamber of Commerce, claimed that as much as 50 per cent of the labour force have left some units. Salunkhe said that many more are expected to leave in the coming days.

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