The state in India where communism flourished for five decades is paving the way for protecting the rights of migrant workers.
The left-led government in Kerala, under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s Left Democratic Front, is to provide free health insurance and medical treatment for the region’s migrant workers.
For migrants like Bhupesh Roy, the move is a blessing.
“Two months ago, I fell sick. I had food poisoning and was admitted to hospital. I had a fever too. For a week, I was admitted to a small private hospital. But then also, bills were around Rs 7000. My friends had to collect money to clear the bills,” he told First Post.
“If we had some kind of insurance support at that time, it would have been a great relief for us,” he added, recounting how his friend went through a similar experience.
The coverage will be provided to around 30,000 internal migrant workers, who mostly hail from West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa.
“By the end of May, we will start collecting proper numbers of internal migrant workers. We have planned to issue them cards and provide insurance coverage,” A. Alexander, Additional Labour Commissioner (Enforcement) at Kerala’s Labour Department, told Firstpost, adding that Kerala will be the first state in the country to implement such a scheme.
According to the senior official, the migrants, who work mainly blue-collar jobs in the state, will get the free medical treatment at state-selected hospitals and will also be able to claim some coverage for accident death compensation.
“It will be a scheme which will be renewed every year. The state government has already allocated Rs 10 crore for the scheme and we have roped in a firm through fair selection procedure to provide the best for workers,” Alexander added.
Mini Mohani, a trade unionist in Kerala, said that health insurance coverage for the labor migrants is the "need of the hour."
“As the majority of these workers take up work which is hazardous in nature without much safety and protection, chances of them getting hurt or falling ill is more. And when something bad happens, they struggle to get treatment on time without financial support,” said Mohan, who is with the Kerala Kettitada Nirmana Thozhilali Congress, which is affiliated with the International Labour Organisation. “The majority of the places of stay for these kinds of workers are also unhygienic. So, such a kind of insurance coverage is the need of the hour.”