The Migrant Crisis- Far From Over by Ananya Raghavan
The coronavirus has devastated the lives of daily wage workers who have been displaced and unemployed for the last few months. Many had no choice but to walk thousands of kilometers to their villages, resulting in one of India’s greatest migrations of all time. There have been many stories published in the media, but the necessary changes have yet to be made. Famous Indian actress Taapsee Pannu recited a poignant poem focusing on the hardships of migrant workers. Earlier, a video of a toddler trying to wake his dead mother at the Bihar railway station (following their transport on a migrant train) went viral. One story in particular gained recent attention in the media. A 15 year old girl biked approximately 745 miles with her disabled father on the back of the cycle to bring him back to their home in Bihar.
The truth is, ever since Prime Minister Modi’s government ordered a full lockdown of some 1.3 billion citizens to reduce the risk of COVID-19, migrant workers all over the nation have been jobless. Now that the country is slowly reopening, these workers should ideally be able to return safely to work right?
Wrong. To stimulate the economy, states such as Punjab and Gujarat are loosening labor laws and increasing work hours to as much as 72 hours per week. This is a huge setback for 450 internal migrant workers, around 92% of the workforce in India. In general, migrant workers have been at the receiving end of injustice in the workforce as many are illiterate and don’t have adequate access to technology. Therefore, instances of exploitation and corrupt hiring practices go unnoticed as workers cannot file complaints to officials. Even as the nation and economy begin to resume, we must recognize that a large population of India remains as vulnerable as ever.
Nishant Pandey, America-India Foundation CEO believes there is a lot of work to be done, asserting that “millions of migrant women, children and youth have been severely hit by the Covid-19 induced humanitarian crisis and we have to invest in their present today to secure their future tomorrow.”
This article was reposted with permission from the Dildaan Foundation.