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Walked from Chennai to West Bengal, seven migrants self-isolate on trees to protect family from COVID-19

KOLKATA: While at least two IAS officers have recently flouted minimum guidelines to combat Covid-19, seven migrant labourers who travelled thousands of kilometers on a train from Chennai to return to their village in West Bengal, have self-quarantined themselves on trees, all because their families own only a one-room mud hut and fear they could be virus carriers.

The tribal migrants, who returned to Purulia district — around 300 km from Kolkata — quarantined themselves on three trees, one banyan and two mango. All the seven labourers are from Bhangidih village of the district. They understood that their presence might pose a health risk not only to their families and but the entire village. Fearing attacks by elephants, the seven migrants have tied charpoys on the tree branches and even put up mosquito nets. They have been living there since last Monday.

‘‘We boarded a train from Chennai on Saturday last week. We arrived at Kharagpur the next day and underwent a medical check-up. The doctors found no symptoms of coronavirus but advised self-quarantine for 14 days so we did not enter our village,’’ said Bijay Singh, one of the labourers. Bijay and others contacted their friends, who helped them with the charpoys and mosquito nets.

Their meals are supplied by their families. ‘‘They keep the cooked food under the tree, we climb down and eat. We are not even allowing our family members to wash the utensils. We wash it with soap and keep it on the ground before climbing up again,’’ said Ranjit Singh Sardar. Balarampur block development officer Dhrubapada Shandilya said no praise was enough for the seven. ‘‘We are thinking how the local administration can help them out,’’ he said.

Their conduct is in sharp contrast to that of two IAS officers. One West Bengal IAS officer attended meetings in the state secretariat even though her son had just returned from the UK and did not quarantine himself. Her son later became the first confirmed coronavirus case in the state. Another Kerala cadre IAS officer has been suspended after he also flouted the guidelines and did not self-quarantine after returning from Singapore.