Desperate Migrant Workers Trapped In Lockdown: Dealing with Do or Die Situation

Desperate Migrant Workers Trapped In Lockdown: Dealing with Do or Die Situation

By Faheem Usmani Qasmi

Workers and labourers are the backbone for the growth of our GDP but their trials and tribulations during the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the outbreak of coronavirus are unspeakable. Their contributions to the development of our country and its economy are incredible. According to the Indian government’s 2016-2017 Economic Survey, internal migrants make up about 20 percent of the workforce and they contribute an estimated 10 percent of India’s economic output. But usually they do not have a formal contract with their employers which is why they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. They earn little more than a subsistence wage and have no social security to protect their incomes if they lose their jobs.

The workers mostly leave poorer parts of India to earn their livelihood for the country’s richer parts, so that they can look after their families and hope to build a better future for their children. They all come from rural areas to the urban areas and excrete perspiration to make all the developments in all the metro cities but the behavior of those cities to the migrants during lockdown period is to be regrettable. They were treated like animals left on roads with having no food, shelter and essentials for dying and subsequently coronavirus-induced lockdown triggered a migration, often by foot or trucks, starting from March 25.

Visuals being circulated on social media are heart-breaking and show how pathetic the condition is workers and migrants are suffering from. That was the reason that Madras High Court said in strongly-worded comments on the humanitarian crisis sparked by lakhs of migrants frantically trying to return to home states amid the coronavirus lockdown. The “pathetic condition of migrant labourers…is nothing but a human tragedy,” the court has said.

The worse condition of migrants etc. undoubtedly, demonstrates the failure of both centre and state governments because the measures being taken to address the situation of migrant crisis are not sufficient for them. The recent incident in Uttar Pradesh, which led 24 migrant labourers killed and many others critically injured, was indescribable and was just like a nightmare. Similarly many other incidents have occurred whose visuals and outcomes left the people baffled with immense shock and grief such as Aurangabad accident in which 16 migrants were ran over by a goods train.

It is pity to see the migrants walking for days carrying their bags and minors to reach their native places and in the same process many of them had lost their lives due to hunger, or road accident. They are constantly pushed to the wall and their plight being ignored not only by the governments but also by those who always took their services to develop their businesses, industries and factories. Above all the police atrocity to the workers and pedestrians is giving an increasing into their injuries.

It has become more than 45 days when an unprecedented lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister Modi and this will probably be for long, but still public institutions could not well manage to respond to this crisis with empathy, urgency and innovative use of existing system. The crisis has begun from the very first days of lockdown from Anand Vihar, Delhi and the governments would have managed it so far, but the plight is growing as the lockdown is extended.

It is the responsibility of every Indian citizen not only government to help the migrants, workers and all the poor people so that they can at least survive and look after their minors. Whatever an individual can contribute this time he must do in this painful condition.

The Writer is Research Excutive at MMERC, Mumbai