It has been a fact of modern developing India that almost 90% of its workforce is involved in the unorganized sector, and that this fact has so far been addressed only academically or for research-oriented purposes. Most unorganized workers are daily wagers with no commitment from employers to provide work on an ongoing basis, and even those with monthly wages have no job security or agreements. A considerable part of this workforce is made up of migrant workers who go to other states in search of livelihoods. Every major city in India has hundreds of thousands of migrant workers engaged in all kinds of activities, from construction jobs to riding rickshaws. Some of them can rent accommodation, while others live on sidewalks, slums, and even on roads and bridges.
It is absurd to imagine that the government of India did not anticipate a problem of such immense proportions by imposing the blockade as of March 24, 2020. In fact, perhaps it is due to the ‘immense proportion’ statistics that the government practically considered or logistically impossible to manage. They might also have thought that making elaborate preparations to address the issue could very well defeat the purpose of the lockdown or ominously delay it. Furthermore, the main focus at the time was ‘saving lives’ by preventing the possible exponential spread of the new Coronavirus, so the government wanted everyone to stay home or stay wherever they were. The most desired mission of ‘stay home’ was immediately derailed, because the moment the shutdown was enforced, all employers fired workers without even paying due wages or salaries, and asked them to leave. Suddenly millions of migrant workers found themselves jobless and penniless, and those in rented accommodation could no longer afford to stay. They also found less shelter, and the desperation to go to their home states grew and grew.
Of course, state governments, NGOs, religious institutions and other stakeholders jumped into the humanitarian fray and claimed or even boasted of providing shelter and food for everyone with the slogan “no one will go hungry.” However, as we mentioned earlier, accomplishing a gigantic job like this, involving millions, was practically or logically impossible. Migrant workers protested in great numbers complaining of “no job, no shelter, no food, no money” in almost every city; They thought they would surely starve to death if it weren’t for the COVID infection and wanted to go home at all costs. The government boasted of controlling the spread of the virus effectively,
and slowly introduced the theme of “sustenance” in later versions of the closure; however, they still did nothing to reduce the sufferings of the floating afflicted millions. And migrant workers began walking hundreds of miles home, some dying of exhaustion while others were run over by cars, trucks, and freight trains; some of them, who could afford to spend a few dollars, tried to travel in trucks or tempos or any means of transport, at least during some parts of the trips, and some of them have not yet escaped tragic accidents.
Finally, during Lockdown 3.0, the government of India began providing trains for workers, without maintaining social distancing, but only to clear the huge unmanageable burdens of humanity. Running hundreds of trains with various state governments organizing buses has yet to achieve the goal, and workers continue to walk home. At the moment, dozens of defenseless human beings die every day in accidents. Chills run down your spine when you imagine the inhuman scenario; Hundreds of workers – men, women and children – carrying loads of luggage and walking on the roads in scorching heat with little or no supply of water or food; trying to rest their tired bodies on the asphalt of the roads at night only to resume in the morning. And the parallel scenario: other vehicles-SUVs, media vans, freight transporters and the like- continued to overtake them; they are interviewed by the media, police checkpoints and interstate border authorities who monitor or allow them; but no one helped them or even tried to reduce their agony a little.
Yes, you are being asked to stay home and stay safe, and some of us can somehow afford it. But the unfortunate migrant workers struggle to get home and many of them never make it at all, dying within a few miles of their sweet homes. Stay home, irony! This amazing Indian reality hits you hard, very hard indeed, and you have no one to trust to tackle this problem. The reality of decades has come to the fore now, COVID-10 makes it impossible to avoid it anymore. However, in India, money is always power: power to influence or pressure or pressure, and since this great mass of humanity has no monetary power, it is still uncertain whether the authorities will finally try all means to handle this problem, if they do. After all the sufferings and miseries, now some money is being allocated for his well-being. Irony again!