Impact of COVID-19 Lockdown on Migrant Labourers

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

Author: Shivalika (New Law College BVDU , Pune)

Co- Author: Saumya Katiha (Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management

Studies, Delhi)


Introduction: Labourers are the backbone of our nation as they perform all manual and menial jobs. Labourers have suffered the greatest damages of all kinds since the start of Coronavirus crisis. The lockdown imposed have dislocated the migrant population. We all know that they mostly work on daily wages in manufacturing or construction industries . The country’s infrastructure is built on the backs of these workers. They construct malls, multiplexes, hospitals, apartments, and hotels. They work as factory hands. They stand the whole day by the side of the road selling fruits, vegetables and flowers. When their wages declined due to low demand, their meagre resources dried up within a span of days and their miseries began. Charitable efforts undertaken by various groups proved to be a mere drop in the ocean. Soon, they all became hopeless and expected to have greater discomforts in the near future. So, they all wanted to somehow reach their hometowns and be alive with their family members who will act as support systems. But alas, there was no means of transport to help them due to which some of them died during this journey. This article particularly talks about the impacts of COVID-19 lockdown on the migrant workers and how we can help them by our small efforts.

Why They Shift From Villages To Cities:

In India, migrants mostly originate from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Mostly people migrate in search of better opportunities in the cities. They migrate to sustain their families in a better way which would actually upgrade their standard of living. They come here with many dreams.

Impact Of Coronavirus Outbreak:

COVID-19 has globally impacted each and every section of people. From economy to health sector this pandemic has a major impact on all. Thus it can be said that COVID-19 doesn’t only lead to economic crisis but also humanitarian crisis. With existing inequalities in India, the strata of people who are poverty stricken have suffered the most because of this unplanned lockdown This lockdown have endangered more lives than the corona virus. The Human rights groups have already stated that migrant workers are at a high risk from the consequences of COVID-19pandemic, due to their inadequate living conditions, lockdowns, insubstantial access to medical facilities, poor working conditions and ruthless labour systems which make them more

vulnerable to starvation and deaths. On addition to this many of them have no savings at all.Below mentioned are some of points which will provide more information on its


Impact:


1. Loss of Income:

As discussed earlier, we all know that they work on the daily basis. And due the COVID-19 crisis, their source of earning has declined which resulted in loss of income. And they are not able to support their families.


2. Food Shortages:

Food is the basic requirement of all human beings. We all require food to function well. But during this time most of them are not getting this basic requirement. Though the government have provided them food at low costs but many of them don’t have any information about this and also many of them don’t have ration cards or adhaar cards to access this service.


3. Uncertainty About Their Future:

Most workers are anxious about returning back to the cities as they have lost all their hopes.


4. Road And Rail Accident And Deaths:

In the amidst of this lockdown, many labourers headed back to their villages. During which there was no means of transport left to help them. Due to which many of them lost their lives.Some of them started walking miles to reach their homes. Some of them hired tempos in which hundreds of labourers with their families tried to escape from the cities. During all this, no social distancing was maintained which led to more corona virus cases.


5. Unemployment:

All the sectors of society are affected. Almost all migrant workers lost their jobs and became unemployed.


6. Police Brutality:

Some migrant labourers who started going back to their homes were beaten mercilessly.


Psychological Impact :


Migrant workers (some of them certainly) are filled with anxieties and fears stemming from this pandemic, and are in need of psycho-social support.

We can also take few small steps:


1. Treating every worker with utmost dignity, respect, empathy and compassion.

2. Listen to their concerns and understand their problems.

3. Help them to acknowledge that this is a situation of uncertainty and

reassure them that the situation is transient and not going to last long.

4. Make them realise their importance in the community and appreciate their

contributions for the society.


Crisis After This Crisis:


1. Fear in labourers of returning back to the city. This would result in loss of many

labourers from the cities.

2. Wider inequalities

3. Poverty

4. Can result in crimes (such as theft).


Remedies:


We know that there are more than 40 million migrant labourers across the country which makes it difficult to provide relief to everyone. But there are few initiatives that we as a citizen can do on a smaller basis:

1. Financial help: We can donate in various Ngo’s or can directly give some financial assistance to them.


2. Informing Ngo’s and Government:This can help in making them aware of their conditions and resolving their problems.


3. Providing them food:This can help them to support their families in this time of hardship.


Conclusion:


Labourers passed from a phase of 'low income' to 'no-income' in their lives. Suddenly, food disappeared from their plates. They had only little and limited support from their employers and the government. They perceived a big threat to their lives. Hence, they were gripped by panic and resorted to emergency measures. Their journey of life saw loss of employment, shrinking food supply, no hope, panic and a great threat to life in quick succession. In desperation, many left for hometowns. Many reached and many died. But, they all suffered, suffered and only suffered in various ways, whether they moved or remained where they were. The entire nation watched their fate with dismay and felt that they deserved a better deal. But only a few of the entire population of India helped them. Now they have expressed a fear to return to their old jobs in cities due to increasing unemployment.


Dear Migrant Workers,

I am sorry for you all,

Who have lost their lives ,

Who helped us making walls,

Now you must be cursing us afterlives.

No one care who live or who die,

It's all we believe is because of the prejudice.

You all must be watching us from the heaven,

We all behaving like a demon.

You helped us in making our homes,

But during this time you are the one who are left alone.

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