T.N. plans portal for workersabroad intending to return

An estimated 2.5 lakh workers from State are expected to return, says an expert

The State government is planning to develop a portal for Tamil Nadu natives who are employed abroad and intend to return in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The portal should be up in the next few days,” a senior government official said. Once the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted and transportation including air traffic opened, the data from this portal could be used in allowing them to return as well as quarantine them, he said.

Kerala government has already set up a portal allowing its natives working abroad to register. “We are expecting about a lakh workers to return,” he added.

Another official said a lot depended on when and how the Centre would open up air traffic into the country.

“The subject of air traffic was discussed during the recent video conference the Prime Minister had with the Chief Ministers. So, naturally, we need to plan on how to manage the inflow of NRI workers,” he said.

Professor S. Irudaya Rajan of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Thiruvananthapuram, a noted expert researching on migrants, feels an estimated 2.5 lakh Tamil workers could return from abroad. “Over 25 lakh workers from Tamil Nadu are employed in various countries and of them, I expect at least 10% of them to return this year,” he said.

Planning ahead was necessary as to who should be allowed preference since most of them would be in a rush to return. “Priority would be given naturally to pregnant women, children and elderly persons.”

According to Mr. Rajan some 12 lakh workers are employed in the Gulf countries. “Almost all the countries are affected by COVID-19 and because of the repercussions, most of them would want to or be forced to come back home, if they could not continue to work there anymore,” he said and pointed out there may not be any job for them here too at once. Tamil Nadu and Kerala had 25 lakh and 22 lakh of their people working abroad respectively, which constituted almost one-fourth of 200 lakh Indians workers employed abroad, he said.

Based on a survey of a random sample of 25,000 households across Tamil Nadu in 2015, his team of researchers have put the figure as 25 lakh.

Mr. Rajan emphasised that in many households, the family was dependent on the remittances made by their family member employed abroad and once he/she lost his/her job, the family would have to find another source of income. The State government could think about conducting medical checks for them, finding jobs for them, among others.

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