Thiruvananthapuram, June 7 (PTI) Migrant workers in Kerala face multiple challenges, exploitation and also receive much lower wages and work longer hours than local labourers.

A vast majority of the workers had to put up with squalor conditions and illnesses, a report presented at a workshop on ‘Stakeholders Consultation on Labour Migration to Kerala’ today said.

Inaugurating the workshop, state Labour Minister T P Ramakrishnan said in the absence of a comprehensive national policy, inter-state migrant workers faced several constraints in accessing measures of social security in the states where they work.

Majority of migrant workers were not members of any trade unions or welfare schemes. “They were not getting the benefits under government programmes,” he added.

The report said informal work arrangements, limited social protection and hazardous work conditions, including high incidence of accidental deaths were a pervasive feature.

According to a recent study, there were 25 lakh migrant workers in the state. Majority of migrant workers were from West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

It was pointed out that workers from other state receive significantly lower wages and work much longer hours when compared to locals and even face issues such as non-payment or delayed payments.

Construction sector in the state heavily depends on migrant labour and engages the largest proportion of such workers in the state.

“A person can even hire a mason from ‘naka’ (a junction where workers gather) who along with his team and finish the work on a flat rate or on a daily wage basis,” report said.

They also do not have any platform to express their grievances, it was stated.

Aggrieved workers have little or no recourse to information or grievance redressal mechanisms and were forced to forego their hard earned money, the report said.

With regard to the migrant workers in fishing sector, the report said fishermen from the Sundarbans region of South 24 Parganas District in West Bengal operate from several Kerala harbours.

The nesting of Olive Ridley turtles along the Odisha coast and related conservation measures also push fisher folk from Odisha to migrant to other state including Kerala, it was pointed out.

Ramakrishnan said in a bid to prevent exploitation of migrant workers, the Labour enforcement wing had been asked to conduct raids in trade and business centres registered under trade and shops Act.

Inspections also would be held in workers’ quarters, he added.

He also said ‘Awaz’, a health insurance scheme exclusively for the migrant workers in Kerala, will be rolled out soon.

Besides, the first government sponsored housing project for migrant workers at Kanjikode in Palakkad district was almost complete. It can accommodate 640 workers.

“The government has decided to extend this facility to other parts of the state also,” he said.

Referring to the insurance scheme, he said it was the first of its kind in the country and “has received worldwide attention.”

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.