This blog is inscribed by Shantanu Dixit.
“It is going to be hard, but hard does not mean impossible”
Globally different countries have adopted several measures to prevent the spread of pandemic starting from mild restrictions to extreme lockdown based on the severity of pandemic & existing health infrastructure in the countries. COVID-19 pandemic has brought along with it severe repercussions, economically, socially, physically & psychologically on the people. This article is an endeavor to concentrate on the distress & torment of the pandemic & resultant lockdown on migrant laborers of the country.
Currently, the world is in the midst of a healthcare emergency. The last two decades have witnessed five Pandemic situations viz. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002, Swine flu in 2009, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, Ebola in 2014 & Coronavirus disease (COVID) in 2019. Though the COVID-19 virus is not so much fatal compared to the previous ones but people with comorbidity have been highly vulnerable. With no vaccine for treatment, the only way is the prevention of the virus from infecting the individual through social distancing, self-isolation & quarantine.
The spread of the Coronavirus from the epicenter of Wuhan in China to worldwide is attributed to migration & mobility of people. On the other hand, medical professionals largely believe that the control of this infectious disease is possible through immobility & confinement like lockdown & social distancing. In a globalized world, the lockdown is likely to bring an unprecedented breakdown of our economic & social system. Migrants are most vulnerable to urban disasters & epidemics. The first case of COVID-19 surfaced in India on January 30th. 2020 & following the outbreak the lockdown in the entire country was announced on March 24th for 21 days. Borders were sealed, transportation got halted & workshops, stores, outlets, shops, eateries & all sorts of monetary exercises were closed notwithstanding just the fundamental administrations. This ends up being a bad dream for a huge number of migrant laborers, who lost their employments overnight & got destitute.
The instantaneous challenges faced by these migrant workers were related to food, shelter, loss of wages, fear of getting infected & anxiety. As a result, thousands of them started fleeing from various cities to their native places. Many migrants lost their lives either due to hardships on the way, hunger, accident & some even committed suicide.
Predicament, Extremity & Long Walk Home:
A telephonic survey of more than 3000 migrants from North Central India by Jan Sahas shows that majority of the workers were the daily wage earners & at the time of lockdown, 42% were left with no ration, one-third were stuck at destinations city with no access to food, water & money, 94% don’t have a workers identity card. Sudden lockdown also stranded many migrants in different cities of the country. Those who were travelling were stuck up at stations or state or district borders. Many were forced to walk hundreds of miles on foot to reach their villages finding no public transport. Those who reached their native villages were seen as potential carriers of the infection & were ill-treated by the police & locals. In one of the instances, a group of returnees was sprayed with chemicals to disinfect them for which local administration apologized. This is perhaps the greatest stream of mass return relocation in the nation. The very exertion to fight off the pandemic transformed into one of the most noteworthy human catastrophes in India’s ongoing history.
There were at least 1,461 accidents throughout nationwide lockdown in which at least 750 people were killed including 198 migrant workers. There were 1,390 who got injured according to the data. Migrant workers, killed during their efforts to go back home comprise 26.4% of the overall deaths during the lockdown whereas essential workers like doctor, police & others comprise 5.3% of total deaths. Out of the reported deaths, U.P. accounted for over 30% (245) of the total deaths followed by Telangana. M.P., Bihar, Punjab & Maharashtra. The top five states that reported road crash deaths of migrant workers are U.P., M.P., Bihar, Telangana & Maharashtra.
The anxiety, fear & curiosity regarding the present & the future situation has inflicted stress & mental agony in the minds of the people. Several; world organizations & government establishments have batted for addressing the mental issue of people including the World Health Organization (WHO). The Union Health Ministry has launched a toll-free helpline (08046110007) to address the mental health issue of people in the wake of the nationwide lockdown. Participants across India revealed high anxiety levels with more than 80% of the people preoccupied.
Further, Finance Ministry has taken steps for migrants by including free rations & recognizing the importance of MGNREGS during the pandemic; it had given occupations to returning workers in country regions and prompted states to proceed with the procedure in the monsoon season also. Moreover, the administration has guaranteed a free supply of 5 kg of food grain per person & 1 kg channa per household for those workers who are neither recipient of the National Food Security Act nor have state cards.
Those in the field of labor welfare have recalled a 1979 law to regulate the employment & working conditions of inter-state migrants. As part of reforming labor law, a Bill has been introduced in Parliament called the Occupational Safety, Health, and Safety Conditions. The ongoing picture of migrant workers in Delhi strolling significant distances & frantically searching for intends to arrive at the places where they grew up have gotten the predicament of migrant workers the cutting edge. Individuals strolling many miles to arrive at their homes with their families including the older & little kids & putting their lives in danger have blended the countries still, small voice.
To sum up, interstate migrant laborers are the most helpless & most affected group of laborers in the nation & during the crises, they feel that appropriate significance isn’t being given to them & the host states who are the businesses of these laborers relinquish them during the period of scarcity. They are defenseless as well as experience the ill effects of for the time being the loss of pay, vagrancy with no food or travel office rendering their little ones, and the old to starvation & hopelessness.
Hence, the pandemic has turned into a human tragedy. India is confronting overwhelming and unsurprising difficulties in authorizing the lockdown & furthermore ensuring migrants and the poor are not lethally stung. Quite a bit of it will rely upon whether the financial & living outcomes of lockdown techniques are deliberately overseen, & the assent of the individuals is won. If not, there is a potential for intense difficulty, social strain & obstruction.
- Anisha Dutta, 198 migrant workers killed in road accidents during lockdown: Report, Hindustan Times, (June 02, 2020), https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/198-migrant-workers-killed-in-road-accidents-during-lockdown-report/story-hTWzAWMYn0kyycKw1dyKqL.html
- Srinivasan Ramani, Coronavirus package: Will migrant workers benefit from the centre’s measure, The Hindu, ( May 17, 2020), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-package-will-migrant-workers-benefit-from-the-centres-measures/article31603590.ece
- 42% of labourers don’t have even a day’s worth rations left: Survey, The Hindu, (April 07, 2020), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/42-of-labourers-dont-have-even-a-days-worth-rations-left-survey/article31273252.ece.