The Plight of Migrant Workers

The Plight of Migrant Workers

“The Sun has set, the night has fallen, the birds have withdrawn to nest but in Lockdown India where curfew orders are in place the Migrant Workers can be still seen walking barefoot with loads on their heads and infants in their hands.”

One common scenario after every major disaster which humans face, the most affected ones are the Poor sections of the Society.

Having seen the migrant workers walking miles with migrant hopes and knowing their experience following the lockdown, I feel they are the ones who are most affected by the pandemic. It is not as if they were not affected by the various day-to-day problems(Low wages, bad working conditions, etc) before coronavirus, but their problems have exponentially risen after facing it and it is now that their miseries have been highlighted and taken to notice by the people of other sectors.

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|| Can you hear their SCREAM? || . . The migrant workers are still failing to reach home safely. They are out there on the open, on the ground- facing all the adversities without proper social distancing, protection or any other health norms, which we are supposed to be followed during this pandemic. And the nature is not helping them either. With amphan cyclone, they are now not only battling the recklessness of our authorities but also adversities of nature. The only hope that is keeping them moving is the hope to go back home. But with this cylcone in place, only time will tell, whether the four walls and the aluminum roof will be there to welcome them or not. An adaptation of the famous painting by Edvard Munch, titled “Scream” #cyclone #nature #disaster #migrants #migrantworkers #painting #digitalart #artoftheday #scream #adaptation #inspiration #illustration #artistsoninstagram #paintingoftheday

A post shared by Art by Indrasish (@artbyindrasish) on

The total number of internal migrants in India is 45.36 crore i.e. 37% of the country’s population according to census 2011, hence, by using the extrapolation algorithm, by now it would have crossed 50 crores.

To tackle the spread of COVID-19, the nationwide lockdown has been in place in India since 25 march 2020. This results in shutting down manufacturing plants, departments, workplaces, restaurants, etc. To put more simply, it feels that India has stopped at its place & so does the Rest of the World.

Daily wages Migrant Workers have nothing in their hands at the end of the day after closing of all economic activities. It has forced them to sleep with folded knees, which are touching with their empty stomach. A very sorry Condition, Indeed. Isn’t it a violation of their Human Rights?

The adults can bear empty stomachs for a day or two but small ones can’t. They have their nutritional requirements for growth and obviously less capacity to bear with long breaks between meals. They are asking constant questions to their parents about what’s happening around when will they have their meals? It can be mentally very challenging for parents to see their kids sleep with an empty stomach and at the same time fighting for their own survival as well.

Governments have tried to ease the situation with various schemes and actions but being the very complex geographical and cultural extent of a vast country like India, it is not being able to deliver its policies completely to the grassroots level. The governments have failed to provide them with basic amenities of life and as a result, the sword of uncertainty was hanging on them.

Their miseries have multiplied because of the indifferent behaviour of their employers and landlords, as well as people around them (I believe it is time for us to look at ourselves in the mirror because no doubt we have failed as humans in the treatment to the migrant labours). As a result, the migrant workers were not able to cope up with the lockdown financially and were forced to go back to their native places for their survival. But with this step, their problems just started, as initially there was no arrangement for taking them back to their places and even when the arrangements were made, they were very unorganized and the damage was already done.

They started walking barefooted, with children in their laps and having no stock of food. Yes, they started hundreds of kilometre journey barefooted !! I am open-mouthed at times, how with no water, no shelter, an infant in hand, luggage on the head, at high risk of catching the virus, they walked hundreds of kilometres barefooted. They are the most courageous and determined individuals around. We can take their determination and hard work as inspiration. If we do even half of their struggle in our life we would surely achieve success a lot early.

Some have been rolled over by trains while sleeping on tracks left with Chapatis all over the place, while Some were killed by overloaded trucks leaving their families to suffer.

These are some incidents that can cause tremors to the human soul and bring government administrators to rouse. These are only a few incidences that have been reported and brought to the limelight, there would numerous more which went unreported.

As the government has been successful in bringing back Indians stuck abroad, I feel it equally important to ensure that these migrant workers also reach their home, as it also their basic human rights.

I read a meme a few days back on social media, where it says “Mistake of Passport been Misery for Ration Card”. This might be meme only but so far it’s true too.

Some have argued why the migrant workers want to go home, can’t they be where they are but I completely oppose and have a question that what you people would do when there is no roof above your head, no ration for the meal, no water to drink, no cash in hand and a life full of uncertainties. Now in this scenario where would you want to go? isn’t that the home, with parents, the best place for anyone, the same for them. When you are at home it gives you the feeling of being safe, it relaxes you that you are at home with parents and with your people around who care for you.

Last time I saw this “huge migration tendency for survival” was way way back in 1947 in black and white times. When a mass number of people migrated across the international border. They were also going through a similar situation.

Now after 72 years in colourful times, we are witnessing the same series of events. This is a big reason to worry as there have been waves of development in India, but still the same misery for the poor section of the society. Is this development, really worth it?

The most prevailing feeling is that these migrant workers who have been treated so badly by all would never come back to the cities. Their faith and trust have been broken by the people for whom they worked their hearts out. Their confidence has been shattered and it would take a long time for them to recover from this setback. It would take huge efforts from the administrations to restore their faith through proper communication channels.

We should not forget the fact that Migrant Workers are the backbone of the economy, constructing houses, helping out in shops, cleaning residences, cooking food, serving meals, making highways and flyovers but it is no longer the case. So if we want to recover and grow as a nation after COVID-19, we will need them and it’s important that we win their confidence as humans to come back and work for us, them, and for the economy. 

On a positive note, there been quite a few steps which I like and feel that they are a step in the right direction. 

Special Shramik trains have been in force since lockdown4.0 for the Migrant Workers. While this is a positive step, there are shortcomings in it too, which need to be corrected to ensure better outcomes. At starting the poor Migrant workers were asked for the ticket price ( which completely unjustified the motive of starting the train services in my opinion), some trains took 70-80 hours instead of 20 hours, which have created even more troubles as the poor migrant workers are short of food supply also. The government should provide food to them as they are unable to buy the food themselves. Also, there have been cases where people have felt ill due to extreme weather compounded with food shortage and some have unfortunate to have lost their lives too. These issues can be handled by a team of medical professionals, who should be deployed in these trains.

They are a lot of celebrities, businessmen, and others working tirelessly, to help the needy people during this pandemic. For example, A reel Villain comes up with being a real hero, Sonu Sood is doing a tremendous job, he is making sure that every Migrant Worker reaches their home and also providing basic amenities to them. We all appreciate him for what is doing and thank you Sonu. 

The opposition is also playing a crucial role at the time of COVID-19. When the poor Migrant Workers were asked to pay for the ticket price the opposition took initiative and took the ticket price on themselves. Also, the opposition ruling states have been doing good work to tackle Coronavirus, from Rajasthan to Kerala. They have been constantly doing constructive criticism and becoming the voice of the migrants. 

Govt. of India is ensuring that every Migrant will reach its native place and so far they have been able to send 91 lakh Migrant Workers to their home by different means. Also, Supreme Court sue moto the matter and asked the govt. for the situation of the Migrant Workers and ordered the executive to provide the Migrant with food, shelter, and free transportation. 

Finance Ministry has announced free food to Migrants with or without the Ration card. Also, the union govt. launched the scheme of “one nation one ration card”. It’s a good step forward to ensuring food for everyone. At a mass level, people have contributed as much as possible by providing them with basic amenities. 

Kudos to those who helped them in these tough times landlords who haven’t pushed them out and hasn’t asked for rent, to those who provided food and shelter, to those who haven’t fired anyone from the job to those who raised their salary and lot more. 

If you also have any suggestion to help the poor labours you can share with us in the comment section. In these tough times, we should stand by side by side with the poor Migrant Workers, without any discrimination on the basis of religion race, caste, sex, or birth.

We as Indians should strongly stand united to overcome these tough times.


Author, QuaRANT9 Ex-KVian | UPSC Aspirant | Armed Forces | Love to discuss, write, read and Cricket of course | Consistency is the ultimate jack of all trades

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