Chennai: Nearly a week since rumours of attacks on Hindi-speaking labourers in Tamil Nadu triggered panic and generated political heat in Bihar, the State Government machinery continued to take outreach measures to reassure the workers that their welfare is paramount.
Safe working environment to the workers of all States
On Tuesday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin visited a private glove manufacturing company in Tirunelveli district and interacted with the workers from the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Stalin urged the worker not to believe in rumours and said his Government is providing a safe working environment to the workers of all States.
Elsewhere in Chennai, a motley group of cadres of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, a fringe outfit, gathered outside the Shastri Bhavan raising slogans against the employment of “outsiders” in large numbers in Central Government offices in Tamil Nadu. The police promptly detained them.
Speaking to reporters after their meeting with Tamil Nadu government’s Chief Secretary V. Irai Anbu, IAS officer of Bihar cadre D. Balamurugan said: “We conveyed our sincere thanks to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu on behalf of team members and also on behalf of Bihar government.”
Due to action taken by Tamil Nadu and Bihar governments panic among labourers has been subsided
A team of Bihar officials, after a meeting with Chief Secretary V Irai Anbu, expressed happiness over the measures taken in the wake of the fake videos of attacks shared on social media. “Due to the action of the Tamil Nadu and Bihar Governments, the labourers realised the video clipping were fake and the panic is subsiding,” Bihar cadre IAS officer Balamurugan told journalists.
Meanwhile, the police, continued to crack down, on those who shared such fake videos and arrested at least two person on Tuesday.
Originally last month a video had surfaced in which a Tamil Nadu man was seen beating up Hindi-speaking workers on board a crowded unreserved compartment of a train. The Government Railway Police had quickly managed to track and arrest the accused Mahimai Das, who they said had attacked the labourers out of frustration and that he did not have the backing of any organisation.
Curiously though this video did not trigger any panic. What really set the alarm bells ringing were a couple of violent videos shared by one Mohammed Tanvir, whose Twitter profile described him as a “journalist”. Tanvir had claimed that Hindi-speaking migrants were murdered in by Tamils. It turned out that one of the videos was a recent sensational daylight murder of a man by a gang in Coimbatore in which the attackers and the victim were Tamils. In the other video, the murdered and the victim were from north India but the incident had taken place in Tiruppur district.
It was soon after this that the issue spiralled. Around that time, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashvi Yadav had attended Stalin’s birthday celebrations where the latter had called for a united opposition front against the BJP. It was after this that BJP leaders in Bihar, began making a hue and cry, attacking their State Chief Minister Nithish Kumar. They accused Kumar and Yadav of hobnobbing with Stalin when Biharis were being attacked in Tamil Nadu. That BJP Tamil Nadu president K Annamalai told them that there were no such attacks did not have any effect on them.
Soon workers in Tamil Nadu began receiving calls from their families in Bihar asking them to return fearing for their lives. With workers also leaving on a holiday for Holi, it became difficult to judge from the crowds at busy railway stations in Chennai and Coimbatore as to whether they were leaving out of panic or for the festival.
As the fear of the workers leaving in large numbers loomed, the Tamil Nadu Government and the industry lost no time in urging them to stay back.
Why the outreach?
While Tamil Nadu remains opposed to “imposition of Hindi”, it nurtured no ill-will against the Hindi-speaking population as such. In Chennai, commercial areas such as Sowcarpet and Vepery and Coimbatore’s R S Puram, thousands of Hindi-speaking people have been living and doing business for at least three generations now without any trouble. But they largely belong to the business communities such as Jains, Marwaris and Baniyas.
The labourers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and the Northeast began arriving in Tamil Nadu only some 15-odd years ago, coinciding with the infrastructure boom the southern State was witnessing. Today, thousands of these labourers, who can be engaged at wages cheaper than what is demanded by the locals, are integral to the development of Tamil Nadu. The hospitality industry (restaurants), salons, retail showrooms, construction industry, garment factories and the like are all heavily dependent on the migrant workers.
It is this reality that prompted both the Government and the industry to issue appeals in Hindi itself to infuse confidence in the workers. If the workers leave, the industry will be crippled, that’s the reality.
The assurances and the visit of the Bihar official team has helped to ease the panic. Now workers have been taking videos of their well being and sending them back to their relatives in Bihar as a means of reassurance.
What this means?
The Government and political parties are aware the migrant labourers cannot be inconvenienced in any manner. At the same time, what will be opposed by certain political groups is the largescale employment of "other State" people in Central Government offices functioning in Tamil Nadu and the State shall always oppose any attempts at "imposition of the Hindi language".
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