We live in challenging times caused by the coronavirus diseases (Covid-19). When India imposed its lockdown, everyone extended full support for the move in the belief that we have to stand as you from the combat with the virus.
Since India is opening, it really is clear that this tactic to combat the virus failed to consider all Indians as you. A country of more than 1.3 billion people was locked down, at four hours’ notice, ignoring the needs of the migrant and poorest workers. The government’s response was included with an inherent class bias included in it. Had you been an Indian abroad, the national carrier was pressed into company to fly you back, even from countries for example China,? where the virus had already spread. I support this as an action any responsible country must take due to its citizens stranded abroad. Yet, migrant workers, stranded away from their homes and families, found themselves out from jobs without any money or food security.
I am from Padrauna in Kushinagar district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Thousands of men leave this district annually to get function in the cities often leaving their families behind. Within times of the lockdown, Congress workers reported that lots of migrants from my district were stranded in numerous states. I create a helpline with my team. We were deluged with calls, as soon as we made the numbers public. All of them had one demand in common: Basic rations to get by. All their money was exhausted with the overnight shutdown of factories.
One of many saddest calls was from a small grouping of young boys stuck in central UP. Left with no wages, they had pooled together and sold three mobile phones to purchase food. Selling a mobile phone, the only relationship with their families, has become an action of ultimate desperation to thrive in these times.
The Congress Working Committee and president and also Rahul Gandhi warned the us government that the was transforming into a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions. This is dismissed as carping by the Opposition.
They have been crucial to nation-building, although the irony is, we have treated migrant workers as outsiders. The requirements were invisible to the people who made grand announcements, until they became available simply to walk about the very streets and highways that they had built, about the in the past to their homes.
During election campaigns, I actually have often gone to locations where there exists a dominance of folks from UP. They have all told me the same thing – they are considered outsiders who are good enough to build metros and skyscrapers, but not considered deserving even of habitable accommodations. They can be outside the safety net on most state government schemes since they don’t have domicile documents.
There are actually three constructive action points we have to consider urgently. One, we need a database of individuals working and living outside their states. For days on end, the point that they are working in the informal sector as contract labour has made them almost non-existent. This database would help you to accurately assess how many should be given food or shelter or transported in a crisis similar to this.
Two, the us government has recently taken the proposal put forward from the former United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of one-nation, one-ration card. This has to be taken a step further. Workers with the identity document from another state should be able to access all government schemes and facilities from the central government or of your state where they are currently living. Also, workers off their states must be capable to vote where these are living. This will likely let them have political access and value on the local elected representative. Both Aadhaar as well as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme are UPA government schemes. They need to certainly be strengthened.
Three, instituting labour reforms does not mean making it simpler to exploit workers. We have to now formulate a universal social security scheme for workers employing an authentic database. In reply to some recent public interest litigation in Gujarat, the state said only 7,512 of the estimated 2.25 million migrant workers were registered. The government has no accurate estimates of the numbers of migrant workers or their locations which explains the inadequate reply to their plight today.
The only silver lining in a dark cloud is that India’s urban residents seem to have finally woken up to the circumstances in which many of their fellow citizens are living. They have started to realise exactly how much these voiceless, faceless people give rise to their lives.
The most humbling conversation I have had over these last two months was using the father of a 19-year-old boy, Arjun Chauhan, who has come from my district. He was killed in the road accident in Auraiya, UP, on his way home at the back of a crowded truck. His father explained to me his son had left his village for the first time in the young life, just a few months ago, to earn a significant living for his and himself family. Will his death be viewed as a fall-out of your pandemic, the apathy of the State, or just another statistic to get forgotten? Most of all, will it be a awaken call to India’s policy makers?