Ensuring the vaccination of cane harvesters: the Maharashtra sugar commissioner to mill owners

Maharashtra’s Sugar Commissioner, Shekhar Gaikwad, in a letter urged the sugar factories to provide vaccination for sugar cane harvesters in their area. The letter is growing in importance as most cane harvesters have migrated from their villages and may end up missing the due date for the second dose, officials said.

About 5 to 6 combine harvesters, mainly from the districts of Beed, Jalgaon, Nandurbar and Ahmednagar, migrate to sugar factories in the state every year. These workers stay in makeshift camps during the cane harvest season, starting after Diwali, and return home after the season ends in April-May. During this period, almost all able-bodied men and women migrate to harvest the cane.

As the vaccination started late in these collectors, most only received their first dose. In November, The Indian Express reported that workers feared they would miss their second dose.

Gaikwad, in his letter, highlighted pressure from the central government for universal vaccinations.

At the start of the season, most of the mills had applied for the vaccination status of the gatherers, which had been duly submitted by their mukadams. However, with states reporting a lower number of Covid-19 cases at this time, the issue of the second dose had receded.

Meanwhile, many factories have started to take steps to ensure their staff are vaccinated. Officials at Natural Sugar and Allied Industries said they had successfully vaccinated nearly 80% of their 3,500 pickers.

Bhairavnath Thombare, CMD of a factory that operates units in Osmanabad and Yavatmal, said special camps have been held at factory sites where almost all workers have been vaccinated. “When government vaccines failed, we bought vaccines ourselves,” he said. Thombare said most of the beneficiaries received the first dose.

Communist leader Kiran Moghe said strict compliance with the commissioner’s order must be guaranteed. “Vaccine inventory needs to be done regularly to ensure that harvesters receive their doses on time,” she said.

Rachel J. Bradford