While we are chilling at home, exploring our hobbies, making our favorite food, and spending time with our families but still cribbing about the pandemic that has forced us to stay at home, it is not us but the migrant workers, who are suffering the most due to the outbreak.
A certain section of the country i.e., hundreds and thousands of migrant and daily wage labourers, are left stranded in a nightmare with no money, food, or a home. Ever since the complete lockdown has been imposed in the country, the migrants have been no move to walk back home despite the constant debates on what can be done by the government to ease their situation.
No food, no shelter, and no help. That’s when you become ‘atma-nirbhar’ as you’re left stranded with no help and have to find your way back home on your own. Amid the unforeseen situation of the global pandemic, the misery of migrants is way more than we can think of. Instances like an MP man walked over 700 km from Hyderabad pulling his pregnant wife and child on a makeshift wooden cart, around 15 workers being crushed by a cargo train after they had fallen asleep on their way back home from Jalna in Maharashtra to Bhusawal in Madhya Pradesh, a differently-abled migrant walked 1200 km from Mumbai to MP post being unable to board the Shramik train, a pregnant wife of a migrant worker delivered on her way back home and then walked 160 km after resting for an hour, a worker pulled the bullock cart himself after one of his bulls died, thousands of workers gathered at Anand Vihar station despite the scare of virus desperately waiting to go back home, migrants being over-charged for their train tickets; shows the plight of poor in our country. And looking at the heart-wrenching instances of migrants, it seems like they have been considered as the invisible citizens of our country.
Our special guest, Mittali Sethi, Assistant Collector and Project Officer at Government of India, Dharni, Maharashtra, explains the situation in her district. She says:
“There’s this private school in our area and the owner is very nice, who was willing to give the school for migrant accommodation. The government has asked to keep the migrants with good facilities and it also gives us an opportunity to upgrade our infrastructure. We had used Aashram schools in our area and we had organized a community kitchen. But every migrant has a longing to go back home, no matter with how well-infrastructure you keep them. For instance, we had migrants from Rajasthan and UP, who stayed with us for one-and-a-half-months. We had given them a TV, they used to play football in the evening and one day we had also organized a musical night for them. But after a-month-and-a-half, one night they had refused to eat dinner. The workers had said, ‘We don’t have a problem here, but we want to go back. How can we eat food when we don’t know if our family has eaten or not.’ Fortunately, in 3-4 days, with the appropriate directions from the Govt of India for inter-state travels, we were able to send them off on their bikes.”
“The overnight lockdown didn’t consider that many migrants and daily wagers were stranded on their construction sites by their managers, who had refused to take their responsibility. Despite the instructions by the government, a contractor leaving his labourers helpless is something that cannot be monitored. The migrants and daily wagers don’t have a voice in their system, and no one is listening to them. So, reportedly what happened in a state is that a Zila Parishad was instructed to accommodate migrants at their place. Now, these people are infected because they were accommodated in the hotspots cities. Most people, who were asymptomatic are now infected. This situation is unprecedented and everyone’s trying to manage with the resources they have. India has community living, which is helping us in a better way as people are taking care of each other in these tough times. An NSS group of around 30 girls have agreed to volunteer in helping the traffic control and everything in our area.”
“Around 2500 of ours have come already and we’re expecting around 6000 more. As a precautionary measure, we are home quarantining the migrants coming from the green zone and institutional quarantine to the ones coming from the red zone. We had started a project – Mere Gaon Ka Main Rakshak, in which two volunteers from each village, who report to the managers assigned if there’s any problem in their areas, who further report to me. And then fix it. Rural areas have easy to monitor as if one case comes from one village, we can seal it and the rest of the villages can go on with their routine. Such monitoring is difficult in cities. Fortunately, we don’t even have a single positive case.”
Now before complaining of the boredom you are facing sitting at home, remember that home isolation is a privilege that not many have! While we are fortunate to have a shelter and work from home and get our salaries credited by the end of the month, more than half of the labourers are struggling to go back to their homes safe, let alone the thought of earning a livelihood.