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Labourers are from Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Chhattisgarh
The nuns are with the Migrant Workers Movement
KOCHI: Two nuns working for the welfare of migrant labourers in the Perumbavoor-Kalady belt has complained that the police are harassing the labourers from West Bengal, Assam, Orissa and Chhattisgarh in the name of looking for ‘Maoists' among them.
Sister Merin and Sister Rosily John of the Migrant Workers Movement alleged that they themselves were being harassed by the police for helping the illiterate and exploited labourers.
After an accident
Though the two sisters have been working among the migrant labourers for two years now, the police started shadowing them after they got involved in the care of those injured in a road accident near Angamaly on January 23.
On January 23 afternoon, five migrant labourers from West Bengal were crushed to death under a cement mixing machine on the road when the van packed with the machine and 16 workers turned over at the Elavoor Junction near Angamaly.
Of the 11 who were hospitalised, one worker's both legs had to be amputated and another's one leg was very badly wounded. They are still in hospital.
The contractor who had hired the workers had initially offered to pay the hospital bill, but had later vanished.
Following the accident, the relatives of the dead and the injured were being questioned and harassed by the police, the sisters alleged. The Muppathadam police had seized the mobile phones of 14 of them.
The mobile phones, the nuns said, were the only link the workers had with their relatives back home and after the seizure they could not keep in touch with their families.
The workers, who could not speak Malayalam and hence could not communicate, were being frequently questioned and harassed by the police. Four were arrested.
The harassment was in the name of hunting for Maoists. Because of the police interference, they were being asked by the owners of their rented houses to leave.
Sr. Merin said she was questioned by the Special Squad about her involvement with the migrant workers. She was being threatened that she would be implicated in some ‘Naxalite case.' Her superiors were asked to discourage her from working for the migrant labourers.
Sr. Merin, who holds an MSW, said that when complained, a senior woman police officer had wanted to know why she worked for the migrant labour and not for Keralites.
The nun, however, noted that the government had, at the initiative of Transport Minister Jose Thettayil and some trade union leaders, got the dead Begnalis' bodies embalmed and sent home by air. It had also paid an initial Rs.30,000 to the relatives of the victims. The government had also offered to pay the medical expenses of the injured.
She urged the authorities to ask the police not to harass the poor and illiterate migrant labourers who were working thousands of kilometres away from their homes for keeping their families stay alive.
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