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Migrant labourers in India 2020
A huge crowd gathers at a bus stop or railway station in Delhi, Mumbai or other big city. After hours of waiting and expectations, no bus or train arrives, but police come to scatter the crowd with the use of teargas or lathi-charge (baton-charge). An official statement says rumors were going round about the availability of some bus or train, that’s why migrants gathered. And that’s done.
Migrant labourers in India 2020
This were common scenes and big news of the day during coronavirus lockdown in India. Finally one day, the government announced to start special trains for migrant labourers to take them to their home state. However, those trains took around 10 days to complete the one or two day journey.
No facility of border-to-border buses were provided in any state. Most of the poor migrants had to head towards hometowns on their own, on foot, by cycle, rickshaw or trucks. The truckers capitalized on the opportunity by taking hefty amount around ₹3,000 per person from poor migrant workers. That all happened with the people whom they called migrants in their own country.
Still during their journey, the migrants in their own country had to bear the wounds and pain of teargas and lathi-charge on their bodies and in their eyes. Even chemicals were sprayed on them to sanitize and punish them at some places. Hundreds of migrants died on road, some in accidents, some due to illness or tiredness. Others, howsoever, reached home, some thirsty, some hungry, some sick and all exhausted
Migrants, finally, reached homes
In the city, governments, local authorities and non-government organizations claimed to be providing two-time meals and shelter homes to millions of migrants during Covid lockdown. However, migrants’ side of story was that they got either no food or no enough food or no proper food from the camps
Migrants also refused to have got proper shelter or any shelter at all after the landlords asked them to leave houses in case they could not pay rent. Government’s appeal without a proper guideline to the landlords to not ask for rent from the migrants during coronavirus lockdown period, as expected, did not work.
And they had to leave the city as they had no work, no money. They just went home by any means they found or just on foot. Some reportedly reached their hometowns with coronavirus infection. Some remained isolated at a center and some at their homes. But everyone, in some way or other, reached home.
Migrant labourers in India: Companies woo them
This was not the full story, it’s just the recap before the upcoming episodes of new season. The new story is that migrants are coming back to big cities slowly in hope of work, in hope of money, in hope of food. As per estimations, most of the migrant workers will be back in big cities from their hometowns by post-monsoon.
The Companies are now facing major labour crisis in big cities. They are even hiring local labourers to start their work that was hampered since lockdown. Now, these companies are wooing migrant labourers back with new promises of advance wages, free travel tickets, free accommodation and medical insurance and check ups if they return.
Ironically, these companies were in deep slumber when same labourers desperately wanted a few of these facilities during Covid lockdown. Now, only 10% of labourers are expected to have come back so far. Less availability of travel options, partial lockdown and small work hours in some cities don’t allow a three-shift working and full-on economic activities.
These could be major reasons for migrants’ hesitation while coming back. However, time has changed. That time poor workers needed food and shelters to stay. This time rich industrialists need labourers to bridge the backlog at sites. Again, rich will win and poor will lose. That’s not new in a developing country like India. It happened in past, happening in present and will happen in future as well.
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