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Poll bug bites migrant workers in Kerala

Poll bug bites migrant workers in Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram: The election fever gripping Kerala seems to have spread to thousands of migrant workers in the state, with many of them planning to travel to their home states to vote.

Kerala has about 2.5 million migrant workers, mostly from eastern states like West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa. They are mostly engaged in the construction sector and infrastructure works like building roads and bridges.

Many workers living in a labour camp in the city said they had already booked tickets to their native states to join their family on the day of polling.

“We have booked the train tickets and are eagerly waiting to cast our vote,” said Chamatkarmandal, who hails from Sanyhata village in the eastern region of West Bengal.

During their free time they also debate the issues in their home state and the possible outcome of the elections, said Chamatkar,a supporter of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

As many as 60 people stay in a packed hall but said they are happy about the working conditions and general atmosphere of Kerala.

“We are happy about the working and living conditions in Kerala and we get remunerative wages. The local people are also quite friendly,” said Dhananjaymandal, also from West Bengal.

Sapan Mandal, who is from Jharkhand, however, said they would like to have voting rights in Kerala itself in the next elections.

The camp has a television set which keeps them abreast about the campaign going on in their home states.

Asked about their aspirations as far as their home states are concerned, Jay from Orissa, said, “Better wages, decent working conditions and gender parity in pay.”

“In our place women are paid much less than what men get as wages,” he said.

“We want our leaders to generate employment opportunities so that we can live with our family in our own states,” he said.

According to AITUC leader Pattom Sasidharan, the migrant workers are still an exploited class going by the labour conditions in Kerala.

“They may feel that their conditions are better in Kerala when compared to their home states. But the fact is that they are often paid less wages than those fixed by the Government despite persistent campaigns by trade unions”, Sasidharan said.

If they get voting rights in the state they work, then the political parties would begin to care them better, he said.