Coronavirus Lockdown: Migrants’ Plight Rising

Coronavirus Lockdown: Migrants’ Plight Rising

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Migrants plight in India

Despite many state governments claims of providing for all their needs or employment, the migrant workers are forced to live in a vulnerable and abandoned state in almost all the regions. Since India announced coronavirus lockdown in most of the regions on March 22 and in the entire country later, plights of migrant laborers have not ended so far. The difference is that earlier they suffered in their work states, now are suffering in their home towns.

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Migrants’ plight in India during lockdown

During two month of lockdown in the country, most of the states claimed that they were providing proper care to all the migrant workers at least with two-time meal and temporary shelter homes for those who needed. Governments also asked the house owners to not ask for rent from their tenants at least for the lockdown period. Many political parties’ wings and non-government organizations (NGOs) also came forward to provide them food on daily basis.

However, several times laborers gathered in crowd of thousands at or near railway stations or bus stands in the biggest of the cities, like Delhi and Mumbai, asking to let them go home. In every city, police cleared such crowd by a lathi-charge (baton charge) or using teargas. Each time, as reported, the crowd came due to rumors of bus or train availability for other states at such and such time.

Every time, when asked, migrants replied, they were not getting food or proper food or enough food or timely food. That’s why they chose to go home. Also owners were asking for rent and they had no money to pay them, so they had to leave. A number of laborers set for their houses, which were thousands of miles away, on foot, by cycles or rickshaws, in the absence of public transport during lockdown. Nobody had the time to think about social distancing, mask and hygiene rules for these laborers.

Migrant workers suffered on their way home

A day came when the country unlocked itself, and the centre announced some special laborer trains. However, in comparison to the number of migrant laborers seeking travel to home state, these train count was far less. Most of the trains took around 10 days to cover a one-day journey, making the things more complicated. Most of the migrants were still going homes on their own. They took help from truckers, who as opportunity seekers took a few thousands from each traveler.

More effective than the government plans was movie actor Sonu Sood’s strategy to help the migrants in Maharashtra. He arranged for their trips to home states mostly by buses, though sometimes by train and air routes. However, state buses never came into scene to offer people boarding from state border to border or border to homes. A number of laborers had to pay the cost of government and administration’s ignorance with their lives.

Many travelers died in road accidents, and a few declared dead due to tiresome journey. In a those days of journey, migrants still had to face food and drinking water crisis. Lathi-charge (baton charge) again was made and teargas was again used on these people of India. Even sometimes, they were made totally wet with chemicals, sprayed on them to sanitize and punish them for breaking rules. However, finally they reached somewhere, sometimes, by some means.

Migrants still suffering in their homes

Though migrant laborers have reached wherever they had to or were forced to due to coronavirus outbreak, yet their plight doesn’t find an end. They again became the prey of mismanagement at isolation homes, with bad food quality, less safety arrangements or no accommodation. May be because of administration’s irresponsible behavior or migrants’ not following safety guidelines, the number of cases in the regions grew dramatically.

Finally, more time passed with rapidly growing Covid 19 cases, and now these migrants were at their homes. Was this the end of their plight? No. In fact, it was the beginning of a suffering that seems to be never-ending. Centre’s huge and confusing economic packages are doing no good for the migrant laborers at home. States forgot them totally and left them on their own. No political parties’ wings or NGOs were available there helping them with two-time meal.

Though a few state governments have announced ration for needy people, yet many poor migrant laboureres cannot claim it. That is because their names are not on the ration cards because they were not at homes all those years. Call it complex bureaucratic possesses and procedures or administrative mismanagement or vested political interests or governments’ ignorance, suffering of migrant laborers is not over yet. And when will it end is not clear yet.

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