Pradeep Pattanayak

The death of three migrant labourers from Goudiaborada village in Ganjam district has only laid bare the grim situation in the home district of the Chief Minister, and also the Labour Minister of Odisha. 

Of the three, the latest was the death of Babrubahan Jena, son of Shanti Jena of Goudiaborada village in Ganjam district. After his marriage, Babrubahan went to Surat searching for work. 

Last month, he fell ill and subsequently breathed his last. The bereaved family members couldn’t have a glimpse of him for the last time as his last rites were performed in Surat. His wife and family members witnessed the last rites through a video call. 

The other two migrant labourers who suffered the same fate were Laxman Jena and Bishnu Bisoi. 

After losing their sole breadwinners, the three families are now passing through a difficult time. 

“He was running our family. Now that he is no more, we are experiencing a lot of difficulties,” said Shanti with tears rolling down her cheeks. 

D Nuapalli village in the same Ganjam district has similar tales to tell. In this village, one can find most houses are locked as all the members have migrated to other states in search of work. The ones present in the village are either the aged ones or the unemployed. 

As per the information available, as many as 11,411 labourers have so far migrated to other states after registering their names at the Chhatrapur Labour Office. Of them, 10 have died at their respective workplaces. But the actual number of deaths is said to be many times more than the figure shown. 

During Covid time, when thousands of labourers started returning to their respective villages in Ganjam, the State government had assured them work in their own district. But with the passage of time, the promise proved to be hollow. 

“Whenever we visit the labour office or the Collector’s office with our grievances, we can’t see the expected alacrity. Here in the Ganjam district, a common labourer is being made to run from pillar to post,” alleged the president of Shramika O Nikhila Chasimulia Sangha, Izu Amin Khan. 

When asked about the government’s failure in providing jobs to the people of the district, Labour Minister Srikant Sahu avoided the question and said, “In case of death of any migrant labourer, the Labour department provides help to the family and takes steps to bring back the dead body.”

“If they get themselves registered at the portal of the Labour department before leaving the state, it would be easier for us to figure out how many labourers are working outside. Since they aren’t registering themselves, we are having problems in providing them with government assistance,” added Sahu.

(Reported by Sulu Biswal from Khallikote, Pitabas Das from Polasara and Ashok Brahma from Berhampur, OTV)