(Image source from: deccanherald.com)
While majority of the privileged people have been okay to tide their lives through the lockdown that has been happening since March 25, it is the migrant workers who have been the worst hit because of the same.
Amidst the news of the migrant workers in India walking barefoot for hundreds and thousands of kilometres to reach their homes, things do seem a lot worse as the days pass on. With the increasing summer heat, these labourers have been collapsing mid way because of the never ending walk and moreover, there is little to no food to suffice their nutrition.
But, even amidst all the constant setbacks, people have been walking round constantly to just be able to reach their homes. While the government is working tirelessly to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, the flip side of the condition doesn’t seem bright at all.
While walking on the streets became too dangerous for the workers because of the constant harassment from the police officers, they resorted to walking along the railway tracks. Several people have lost their lives during their journey towards their home, some due to accidents and some due to the lack of accessible food and water.
Thousands of migrant workers still to this day, are on the roads. They are walking miles with their family and the meagre belongings. While we common people have been crying about being stuck inside our homes, the last thing that these labourers can afford is sitting back inside their homes.
The problem that the migrant workers have been facing during the lockdown is common because majority of them have lost their jobs and some are even struggling to manage two proper meals a day for themselves and their families.
Amidst it all, the economic situation of the country is extremely alarming as well. Nobody is sure what the future has in store for everyone but the one thing that all of these migrant labourers have been is determined.
“Migrant workers might survive coronavirus but they indeed will die of hunger and starvation.”
This is a haunting line that has been repeated again and again among the people. And, to an extent, there is nothing false about it.
Baby tries to wake up dead mother
In one such event, a toddler was seen playing with a shroud over his head that was covering his dead mother in Bihar. The video was probably one of the tragic visuals that anyone would have seen during this entire farce of lockdown.
In the viral clip that has been making rounds across the social media, the toddler was seen tugging the shroud off of his mother’s body but she remained on the ground, motionless. She had tied a few moments back. The family members of the deceased reported that she died because of extreme hunger, heat and dehydration.
The clip is from a station in Muzaffarpur in Bihar wherein she arrived to the station on May 23 in a special train for the migrant workers.
Not just this one case, another two year old also died on the same station because of the heat and dehydration.
According to the reports from the family, the deceased lady was feeling unwell on the train because of the lack of food and water. She boarded a train from Ahmedabad and reached Muzaffarpur where she collapsed.
Following her death, her body was laid out on the platform of the station and was covered with a shroud. While her little toddler tried to wake her up, her older son tried to pry his little brother away from their deceased mother.
The woman was on the way to Katihar with her sister, sister’s husband and her two children.
This death is not the first but is one among the hundreds happening. Lakhs of migrant workers have been risking their lives to return home because of the lack of jobs and money.
Earlier this month, government also arranged for special trains to take the migrant workers home but the process has been further delayed because of the paperwork, leaving these workings choose their own path towards home.
Lakhs of registration pile in under UP government
With the uncertainty that the future holds, the migrant workers have been desperate to find good jobs to be able to pay for themselves and their families. Amidst that, the UP government sanctioned to employ lakhs of migrant workers in MSMEs and other industries to ensure that they don’t end up being jobless in the near future.
Over 25 lakh migrant workers have returned to Uttar Pradesh amidst the lockdown. CM Yogi Adityanath has directed all of his officials to quickly conduct a skill mapping of the labourers in the coming 15 days to put them into work in the MSMEs and the other skilled industry.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Information) Awanish Awasthi reported that over 14.75 lakh workers have registered themselves in the first set of the skill mapping.
The CM of UP has also asked for all out efforts into increasing the industrial activities and a thorough survey has been advised to be conducted to ensure better job opportunities for the labourers and migrant workers in accordance to their skills.
Reports also suggest that the skillset and qualifications of the workers can be collected via a call centre of 200 people.
Supreme court rulings
Amidst the constant plight of the migrant workers and their state of distress, the Supreme Court on Tuesday addressed both the Central and the State government to report back within two days with all the steps that they have taken to help the migrant workers during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The top court’s notice comes 10 days after a bench refused to intervene on a petition that wants the government to identify the stranded migrant workers and do the needful to get them home without any charges.
The SC bench was led by Justice Ashok Bhushan on Tuesday who reported that they are going to take suo motu note of media reports.
Celebrities doing their part
Amidst the time of crisis, Bollywood actor Sonu Sood has stepped up to arrange buses to help the migrant workers reach their homes. He has arranged for multiple buses for the workers to be able to reach their homes in different parts of the country.
Not just that, he and his team have even set up a toll free number (18001213711) after being overloaded with calls and messages from the migrant workers.
The voluntary work started with the first bus that was sent from Mumbai to Karanataka, helping over 300 migrant workers to reach their homes safely. Since then, Sood has been working tirelessly to ensure safe journey for all the workers that have been contacting him.
“Migrant workers have helped build our roads, homes and offices. We cannot stand and watch them be homeless,” he said.
Not just for the migrant workers, Sonu Sood has also opened gates of his family owned Shakti Sagar hotel in Juhu, Mumbai for all the healthcare workers who are in need of it.
“Health workers are the wall between us and the virus. We are happy to provide them food and a place to rest, before they resume their work the following day,” Sood further added.
Not just Sood, even Michelin star celebrity chef Vikas Khanna has been working tirelessly to send food to all the distressed people during the lockdown and the ones affected after Super Cyclone Amphan.
Khanna has also been working with Sood to provide the migrant workers with the food during their journey to ensure that nobody goes to sleep hungry. He has been working closely with several organisations and non-profits to make this volunteer work an even bigger success.
During this time of need, it is a test for us to prove our humanity. It is time to come together and show the world that just a small lending hand is enough to help someone in need. If you come across a migrant worker in your area, share some of the food and water you have. If possible, give them some money too.
Help others during such times of distress.
By Somapika Dutta