Migrant Workers And Daily Laborers, Their Pain, Tears, And Heartbreaking Conditions Will Haunt Us Every Day
COVID-19 Crisis And Migrant Workers And Daily Laborers
It is a well-known fact that India is a country with a deep-rooted economic divide, and the COVID-19 crisis has only served to expose the divide, like never before. While the financially well-off section of the society is busy with working at home, Zoom classes, and Netflix, the economically weaker section of the society is dealing with unprecedented hardship. The plight of migrant workers and daily laborers is particularly tragic.
Lockdown Due To Pandemic And Migrant Workers And Daily Laborers Crisis
India had been under lockdown since 24th March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the direness of the situation, the lockdown had been extended to a much longer duration than initially anticipated. It is currently in its fourth phase, and there have been several relaxations from 4th May onwards. While the lockdown might have helped reduce the impact of the pandemic in India, it cannot be denied that its impact on daily laborers, particularly migrants, has been disastrous.
With workplaces shut, migrant workers had to face the consequences of the loss of livelihood. There were severe food shortages, as a number of migrant workers were unable to access the rations promised to them by the government, due to area-specificity of ration cards, and lack of awareness of schemes. The most heart-wrenching story is perhaps that of the migrant workers trying to go home on foot or by bicycle, with no food or money in hand.
While the government launched special trains and buses for them later in May, many of them did not wait until then to attempt to go home. That often led to tragic consequences-on May 8th, 16 migrants were killed after a train ran over them in Aurangabad, when they were sleeping on the tracks, driven by exhaustion. Another tragic accident had taken place on 16th May when a road accident killed 24 migrant workers.
More than 300 deaths were reported due to various reasons like starvation, suicides, exhaustion, accidents, etc., mostly among migrant laborers and workers. While the lockdown itself is largely seen as a necessity and has been largely praised for helping reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the collateral damage cannot be ignored. The government had taken certain measures to alleviate the problem-recently, the second tranche of the 20 Lakh Crore stimulus package has been announced, focused entirely on migrant workers, street vendors, and small farmers. However, there has also been concern over the relaxation of labor laws that had taken place in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat in order to attract industries and investments, and their impact on migrant workers and daily wage laborers.
Migrant laborers also have the fear of being mistreated on returning home. Many of them are treated with fear as people are afraid they might catch the virus from them. Overall, their situation is extremely touching, and heart-wrenching to hear about.
It is of imminent importance that the government takes action to help the migrant workers and laborers as soon as possible. In a country like India, with a high population and a high number of underprivileged people, it is not easy to ensure that a crisis like this is resolved smoothly. However, it is undoubtedly atrocious to expect the most vulnerable sections of society to bear the human cost of the crisis.
While the rich and upper-middle classes in India are often apathetic to the condition of the poor, tragic incidents have thankfully created a rise in empathy. It is important for all citizens of India to stand together to combat not just the pandemic but also help those most affected by it. Central and State governments should ensure that the funds allocated are used appropriately and that we emerge out of this situation with minimum collateral damage.