According to the tenants, who are originally from Tamil Nadu, the owner had locked an old man out of his house and taken away the key.

Kerala landlord threatens to oust migrant workers officials help after media reports
Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - 19:49

Migrant workers across the country have been deeply impacted by the 21-day nationwide lockdown and its extension, living far from home and depending on a daily wage to put food on the table. A recent media report highlighted the plight of a group of labourers from Tamil Nadu after a Kerala landlord demanded that they pay rent and allegedly attempted to lock an old man out of his home.

The incident prompted response from the district administration of Kerala’s Kasaragod.

Around 300 people reside in two buildings in Kolavayal village, Kanhangad taluk in Kasaragod district. Despite a state government order that asks landlords to refrain from collecting rent until the lockdown is lifted, the owner created a scene and demanded rent, said Veerappan, a daily wage worker who has lived in this settlement for over 20 years.

“He had actually locked the house of one of the tenants here, an old man, leaving the tenant stranded outside. We all had to intervene and beg the owner to get the key back,” he said.

At present, around 80 people — men, women, the elderly and children — reside in the one-room tenements. The men are primarily daily wage earners, who depend on odd jobs like tree cutting and small-scale sales for money. But with the lockdown and social distancing norms in place, they have no way to earn and whatever little that was saved has been spent on baby food and milk.

“We are provided food twice a day. But for infants, we buy milk powder and baby food from the shops. Now, with no means of income, whatever we had saved is being spent on this and hence we don’t have anything to pay rent with,” said Veerappan, who adds that the monthly rent for a room there is Rs 2,500.

After the situation was highlighted by the media, officials from Kanhangad municipality and police reached the spot on Wednesday and conducted an inquiry. “They have assured us that they will talk to the owner and tell him not to insist on rent till the situation becomes normal for us,” he said.

He also added that the police officer has assured them of assistance in case a similar situation arises again. “We did not tell [the homeowner] that we won’t pay. We have never delayed the rent before either. We just asked him for some time till the situation gets better and that we will give the money together later,” Veerappan added.

Ajanur Panchayat President P Damodaran spoke to TNM and said that the district administration has intervened to settle the issue.

"We talked with the owner and the issue has been resolved. The migrant workers were not asked to leave the houses, they were asked to pay the rent. But since this is a lockdown, they don't have work and it is hard to pay rent. Officials have intervened and the homeowner has agreed that there won't be any issue further. Though they did not complain about a shortage of food supply, we will be distributing food kits," he said.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.