Chennai Corp releases video on community centre for migrant labourers, draws flak

The video talks about the community centres set up the Corporation for migrant workers, and all the arrangements being made for them.
Chennai Corp releases video on community centre for migrant labourers, draws flak
Chennai Corp releases video on community centre for migrant labourers, draws flak
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A video released by the Chennai Corporation has received flak from activists working with migrant labourers. The video shows that the community centres established by the Chennai Corporation provide migrant labourers with all the required facilities, and claims that most of them have been accommodated. Criticising this, activists alleged the visuals do not represent the reality on ground.

The video from the Greater Chennai Corporation on Thursday said it had set up a total of 98 community centres in Chennai for migrant workers and homeless people. In the video, the Corporation states that along with making arrangements for their stay, it has also provided masks, food, fruits, mat and hand sanitisers to each individual.

It also said that events were conducted to reduce the mental stress among the inmates, and that the government is sending them back on the trains and buses arranged by the Tamil Nadu government. The video also added that the Greater Chennai Corporation and Tamil Nadu government is proud to say that no one staying in the community centres has contracted the virus.

Refuting the claims made in the video, activists stressed that the reality was different. The government is refusing to acknowledge the fact that the migrant workers have started to walk to their home states, they said.

An activist who did not want to be named said that migrants are struggling to even enter the community centres, and that they can enter these centres only if they have a channel through NGOs or police officials, or a letter from the zonal officers. “Without the channel, labourers are unable to enter and most of the time, they are asked to get a letter from a zonal officer. How will these migrant labourers know these zonal officers? Hence, the whole process becomes difficult,” she said.

The claim by the government and the Greater Chennai Corporation that they are taking care of the migrant labourers is “ propaganda”, said Shreela, a lawyer, activist and a volunteer with the COVID Migrant Labour Fund in Chennai. 

 “The government is sticking to this constant propaganda mechanism. Most of the help for Greater Chennai Corporation for running shelters was done by volunteers. If GCC is taking all the credit then it is dishonest. In the whole video, they have painted a utopian scenario which is untrue,” said Shreela.

She further said that there is no point in the government and the GCC claiming that they have taken care of the migrants as the migrants started walking because they thought that there was no point in waiting for the government and the Corporation to step in for help. The Corporation and the government failed to address a lot of issues including salary cuts and unpaid wages but attention was not paid to the problems, she added.

Shreela said she heard complaints from many shelters that they did not serve proper food, or the facilities provided were not good. “In the video, they are setting up a banana leaf and serving food which I think is too good to be true. I also don’t think the claim about GCC going an extra step to take care of mental health is correct,” she said.

“The Chennai Corporation could have better released a video of a model shelter and have told other shelters to follow the same. However, we have not come across any model shelter,” Shreela said.

When asked about the allegation, an official from the Chennai Corporation said that all the stranded migrant labourers are already in the community centres. “The rest of the labourers have started working and only some want to go back home. Revenue officials are speaking to the labourers and arranging transportation for them. We are keeping the people who left their companies and have not got a mode of transport. The Corporation is only arranging the food for people in the centres,” said the official.

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