Radhika Bansal, Ground Report:
The Chief Labour Commissioner’s office has counted over 26 lakh migrant workers stranded across the country, of which 10% are in relief camps or shelter homes, while 43% are in situ at workplaces and 46% are in other clusters.
After the government imposed the lockdown in end of March, migrant workers faced the worst. Without work and money, stranded migrants wanted to return back to homes from the big cities. But no travel facilities made them helpless to cover hundreds of kilometers on foot. From Mumbai, Delhi, Surat and many other big cities, these workers, on foot, covered long distances. Many of them lost their lives. But even after around three month long struggle, many workers have not been able to reach their homes.
There is no work because of the lockdown. Because of this, they are low on food and money and most of them are already out of money and food. The government is not providing any ration to them in the lockdown. Their employers are not giving them salaries. They don’t have any reason left to remain in the cities so they are returning to their homes.
Since the lockdown, we have heard and seen so many migrants who have covered hundreds of kilometers of distance on foot just to reach home. The condition of these workers is deteriorating amid COVID – 19 pandemics.
Now in July, the situation is being changed. At least that is what we assume. Now when the lockdown is being eased and special trains and bus services are being resumed for the workers, we should see improvement in the conditions of them. Most of them should be returned home or if they are stuck then they should be provided with all the necessities.
Now, In Unlock 1, most of the industries are coming back to routine and they want labour back to work in their factories. But the migrant workers are not ready to return. They are wooed by their managers who are offering them 3 times an increment in their salaries. Many of them are also sending cars and trucks to their villages so that they can return to work. Will this help?
When most of the labourers who have returned to their homes or are struck in shelter homes away from their homes and their place of work, how will the industries work? How will the government and the employers gain back the trust of these migrant workers that they are safe and now will be treated in a better way? How will they make sure that they will be given timely payment of their salaries and rations from the government?