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India’s migrant workers deserve better than this

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
Migrant workers, dismissed by employers, enjoying no protection from their governments, often thrown out of their accommodation by their landlords, in urgent need of food transport and money, have been driven by desperation to walk home.

Migrant workers, dismissed by employers, enjoying no protection from their governments, often thrown out of their accommodation by their landlords, in urgent need of food transport and money, have been driven by desperation to walk home.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

Last Sunday, a friend of mine was in a group which was driven on official business from Delhi to Lucknow. As I have not seen a single report of a long drive and I am locked down in a containment area, I asked him to take notes on what he saw. He was not allowed to stop and interview anyone. All along the 416 km route, he saw migrant workers and their families walking to their homes, most of them were in groups, some alone. The old hobbled supported by sturdy sticks; some younger men, drenched in sweat, for it was a sunny Sunday, carried heavy bags strapped to their backs; others carried sacks on their heads. Babies and young children were held in the arms of their parents, older children clasped their parents’ hands. At a village called Brijghat in Hapur district, the police manhandled young cyclists trying to get past a barricade. My friend’s vehicle was stopped at barricades and checked by the police each time he crossed the borders between districts. All dhabas and shops were closed. Drinking water was only provided at two places. At one place, Sikhs had established a langar and were providing food for the walkers. Within Lucknow, the police checking was intensified but walkers were still to be seen on the ring road.

Nearly six weeks after the first lockdown was announced, this was the scene on the road between the capital of India and the capital of its most populous state. Migrant workers, dismissed by employers, enjoying no protection from their governments, often thrown out of their accommodation by their landlords, in urgent need of food transport and money, driven by desperation to walk home. It is a scene many have described as reminiscent of the migration at Partition. This is the outcome of the largest and one of the strictest lockdowns in the world enforced during the coronavirus disease crisis — a lockdown that has been widely applauded internationally.

Why has the outcry against this suffering inflicted on men and women who are more than 90% of India’s workforce been so muted?



Because the opposition is dead and being systematically killed.
The upper and middle class does not care about the plight of the poor.
 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
It is, I believe, in part at least, because those in a position to raise their voices have not identified themselves with those who are suffering. This idea came to me from re-reading DH Lawrence’s once-controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover during the lockdown. Set in the industrial midlands of Britain between the two World Wars, the novel is the story of a titled woman’s love for the working-class gamekeeper on the estate of her husband, a mine owner.


One of the themes is the lack of engagement and empathy between the upper-class and the working class as they were known in those days. During a row with her husband over his attitude to the servants, Lady Chatterley says, “I’d have you be aware of people.” He replies, “And I’d have you a little less aware of that kind of people and a little more aware of the people who are after all of your own sort and class.” One of the gamekeeper’s friends asks Lady Chatterley, “Do the upper classes feel any sympathy with working men as has nothing before them, till they drop. Do they sympathise?”

The migrant worker crisis has shown the relevance of that question in today’s India. The economist Jean Dreze, who has dedicated his life to the study of poverty and inequality, said on News18, “The lockdown has been like a death sentence for the underprivileged”, and maintained that “the policies made to contain the pandemic have been made or influenced by a class of people who pay little or no attention to the consequences for the underprivileged.” Nikhil Dey, who along with Aruna Roy, has worked for many, many years empowering workers and farmers put this lack of sympathy even more bluntly. In an NDTV debate on the migrant crisis, he said, “We are not thinking of them as human beings.”




India's new rich and powerful lack empathy. They are too busy patting themselves on their back.
 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
The defining images of India’s three-week lockdown may be of migrant workers, with bags perched on their heads and children in their arms, walking down highways in a desperate attempt to return to their villages hundreds of miles away.


India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people, is not among the worst affected by the pandemic. Not yet, anyway. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has crossed 7,000, with more than 200 deaths.

But the virus is exposing once again India’s deep economic divide, and the government’s apathy toward the workers who power the country’s growth.

In the middle-class South Delhi neighborhood where I live, we’re preoccupied with the inconvenience. No one likes to be cooped up at home for days on end. No eating out, no visiting one another; masks must be worn when you go to the grocer or the bakery. With few cars on the road, some of my neighbors have noted one silver lining: The sky is clear and blue, something we rarely see in one of the most polluted cities in the world.

No one really knows whether COVID-19 has entered the rural parts of the country where nearly 70 percent of Indians live. There are reports of neighbors shunning migrants once they arrive home, because they fear they carry the virus. And a shocking photo surfaced of migrant workers and their children in a small town being sprayed with bleach meant to sanitize buses.

For the workers who stayed in the cities, the same uncertainty exists. Shashi Rani, who came to Delhi to find employment, has not gone back to her village. She still sells garlands in front of my neighborhood temple. The temple is under lockdown; a few devout people bought flowers from her for the recent Hindu religious festival Navratri. Otherwise, she has hardly any customers. She worries about how she will sustain herself. The Delhi government’s mobile food vans offer some help. But she does not think the owner of the shanty where she lives will agree to defer her rent, despite a government directive to that effect.


The local governments in Delhi and in some other states have set up shelters for migrant workers who can’t work and could not get back home. Nonprofits are also trying to help. But India is a patchwork quilt; not every state is equally equipped.

 

RSSARMA52

Member
The public applaud movies on the same theme of labor exploitation and give in crores to their blind worships. But the same who worshipped never come out to do the same in real life.
The sad part is millions of fund is amazed by donation from many industrialist but not used for migrant worders for their living and travel needs. Really a very sad situation.
 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
This could potentially force the world into a prolonged recession. India may have escaped some of the ravages of the virus so far, thanks to early steps taken by the government, including the nationwide lockdown. But it has come at a huge cost to the economy.

Tens of millions have lost their jobs, production has come to a halt and the aggregate demand has reached rock-bottom due to the steep fall in exports, investment and consumption demand.



It’s been six weeks. People are still walking. People are still thirsty. People are near starving. These are not ordinary people; they have built the country. They will build the country in the future. No favour is being done to them by providing them assistance to get to where they feel they belong. There is still time to save lives and win back trust. Galvanising the Army or even the paramilitary to assist these long marches will transform the everyday images of sorrow into those of joyful reunion. This is the right thing to do.

 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
Where India’s government has failed in the pandemic, its people have stepped in

The highways connecting India’s overcrowded cities to the villages had not seen anything like it since the time of partition 73 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of workers were on the move, walking back to their villages with their possessions bundled on their heads.

On 24 March, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide 21-day lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic. States sealed their borders, and transport came to a halt. With no trains or buses to take them home, India’s rural-to-urban migrant population, estimated at a staggering 120 million, took to the roads. On 5 April a statement from the home ministry said 1.25 million people moving between states had been put up in camps and shelters.

The rest started walking. With their jobs in cities lost overnight, and no clear social welfare package, hunger is a more real threat to these millions of people than a pandemic.

“Everyone is talking about migrants – those who started walking back to their villages,” said Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonj, a Delhi-based charity. “There are also people who reached their villages, people who were stuck in the cities, and the millions already living in the villages. They are all in distress.”

The lockdown was announced without a clear plan for the consequences and Indian civil society stepped in immediately.

With 92 partner NGOs, Goonj started work in 18 states. By 20 April, field teams had delivered rations to 17,700 families, and 16,600kg of rice, flour, lentils, potatoes and oil and 77,800 ready-to-eat meals to community kitchens. They had also produced 42,800 face masks and 24,900 sanitary pads.

Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram-Ekta Parishad is doing the same in 39 districts across 10 states. In Madhya Pradesh alone, they say, 99,225 migrants have returned home, comprising daily wage workers, landless farmers and tribals. Thousands of workers and volunteers are feeding migrant labourers and maintaining community kitchens, as well as distributing masks and soap and protective equipment for frontline health workers.

An India Today analysis established that in 13 states and union territories, NGOs are outperforming state governments in feeding people. It found that in states like Kerala, which has been praised for its response to Covid-19, and Telangana, “all meals were exclusively provided by NGOs during the lockdown, while in states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Mizoram, NGOs provided 92.8%, 91.7% and 88.5% of all the meals, respectively”.

Days after the lockdown was imposed, the finance ministry announced a relief package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore (£18bn). This included food, grains and cooking gas, but there was no roadmap for how this aid would reach people. Cash transfers of Rs 500 a month were announced for women with bank accounts under the government’s Jan Dhan scheme.

An itemised analysis by IndiaSpend concluded that the financial package announced by the central government is not all additional funding for Covid-19, but a reallocation and often, reiteration, of existing budgets.

Some state governments announced cash transfers, while Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh announced money for destitute women.

But the chances of people ever seeing the money or provisions allocated to them are remote.

“Even if the money has come into their bank account in the city, how do they access that now, in the village?” asks Gupta.
The inadequacy of the state’s preparedness to tackle this crisis has led to local and central governments scrambling to build relations with civil society to deliver relief, a relationship that has been compromised over the past five years.

Between 2014 and 2020, the Indian government cancelled the licenses of over 20,000 NGOs to receive foreign funds under the Foreign Contributions Regulatory Act.

NGOs have been demonised, especially those working on human rights issues. Their bank accounts have been frozen, their staff have been harassed, and their intent has been questioned. Now, as the state grapples with a response to Covid-19, the government think-tank NITI Aayog has requested that more than 92,000 NGOs help the government fight the pandemic.

Gupta is unequivocal: “Civil society – NGOs and ordinary Indians – are fully taking care of the hunger problem.”

 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
Don’t blame Covid or financial package. Politics is holding India’s migrant workers hostage

A future historian might call this the great hostage drama. The Narendra Modi government’s actions vis-à-vis the migrant workers during the Covid-19 lockdown now leave no room for confusion. This is not about containing the coronavirus infection. This is not even about saving the government some relief package. This is about keeping workers hostage.

Our response to the plight of the migrant worker brings out all that is rotten in today’s India: obscene class inequalities, loss of society’s moral compass, paralysis of politics, and toxic media. Looking at our response, our future historian would wonder if we were reacting to some humanitarian crisis in far-away Nigeria. She might call it a democratic version of the system of indentured labour.

Facts speak for themselves. The lockdown has led to sudden job loss for more than 12 crore persons. Of these, more than four crore could be migrant labourers. A survey based on calls to a helpline number run by Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) gives us a glimpse into their condition. As many as 78 per cents of them have not been paid any salary for the lockdown period. Eighty-two percent have not received any ration from the government. And 64 percent have less than Rs 100 left with them. Without a job, running out of their meager savings, and without hope for the future, these migrants workers want what anyone would wish in their position: to go back home. Apparently, more than one crore workers have registered to return to their homes.

 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
How to ignore migrant workers
The story of the last six weeks is a study in how to keep the poor workers imprisoned without having to pay or feed them. The lockdown began with the Modi government pretending that migrant workers did not exist. There was not a word about them in the government’s original guidelines. They were noticed only when lakhs of them voted with their feet and started walking hundreds of kilometres.



Even this did not lead to any coherent policy response. The problem was managed by dispersing the crowds visible to cameras. Some of them were packed into buses, others were shoved into makeshift relief camps. Strict orders were issued not to allow anyone to travel anymore. They did not stop. Thousands, possibly lakhs, still continued to walk back, or cycle, or hitch-hike. But they were not TV headlines anymore. They did not matter.


The package announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had nothing for this category, except an unworkable scheme for construction workers. The Centre refused to heed to repeated requests for providing ration to those without ration cards or to open community kitchens under the National Food Security Act. The buck was passed on to the state governments, that too on the condition that they would have to purchase food-grain from the Centre at market price. The idea of giving some cash allowance to the poor was not even heard.

Meanwhile, those who mattered were still being transported. Gujarati tourists stuck in Uttarakhand, Andhra pilgrims stranded in Varanasi, Punjabi pilgrims staying in Nanded, middle-class children studying in Kota, foreign citizens who needed to catch special flights, and of course, anyone related to a big or small VIP. They could be infected; indeed many of them turned out to be positive. But they were our citizens. All this was below the media radar and so was not a problem. Occasional reports of workers protest could be suppressed with the help of a friendly media.




 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
No train home
Eventually, towards the end of the second lockdown, the rulers decided that something had to be done about it. Hence the decision to selectively run buses and quietly, almost secretively, start running trains. The news could not be suppressed. The workers saw a release and lined up to go back. Now the problem was how to control the flow. There is no way to pick a few from the crores who wish to travel back. So, there was a money filter, the cruelest way to keep the poor out.

The story about the Centre contributing 85 percent of the fare was pure nonsense, a dodging device to keep media distracted for one day. The simple fact is that the Indian Railways has charged exactly its normal fare for sleeper class, plus Superfast surcharge and food charges. Thus a ticket from Vasai Road (Mumbai) to Gorakhpur (incidentally the ticket tweeted by BJP’s Sambit Patra) costs around Rs 660-680 in normal times. For Shramik Express, the Railway is charging Rs 740, as I explained earlier. So, it is charging more than its normal fare. The truth is that workers have had to pay these fares, often asking families to make a reverse transfer for this purpose. Those workers who could not pay did not board the trains. The ‘sending state’ government is responsible for collecting the fares from workers or paying it directly. The ‘home state’ can do the same, but very few states have offered it. In the last instance, the already impoverished workers have to pay the fares.

There is nothing normal about the Railways’ decision to charge ‘normal’ fare for special Shramik trains. Indian Railways has a history of humanitarian evacuation. As recently as 2015, Indian Railways ran free trains for the Nepalese in the aftermath of the earthquake. Running a thousand or more special trains is not a big deal for Indian Railways. Forgoing tickets worth a few hundred crore would not have burnt a big hole for the Railways that already offers substantial subsidies for passenger fares. There was a precedent for the railways to emulate. In the course of this pandemic, the government has chartered back Indian citizens living abroad, free of cost. The decision to charge migrant workers in distress was not just wanton cruelty of some administrator or crass commercialism of a public sector corporation. It was a political decision not to allow cheap labour to escape when they might be needed by the industry.

 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
Hostage situation
If there is any doubt about it, the Ministry of Home Affairs clarified this in its letter. The letter basically says that Shramik trains are not for migrant workers. Only persons temporarily stranded away from home can use these. Workers can’t use it to go from their workplace back to their homes. Since the authorities are trying to keep the numbers as low as possible. There are reports from several states of local authorities ‘persuading’ the workers not to go back, without of course making any arrangement for their food or cash requirements. In Karnataka, the chief minister held a meeting with the leading real estate developers and suddenly decided to withdraw request for all the special trains. The migrant workers, the cheapest labour, are indeed the glorified indentured workers of our time.


The future historian might write this story of moral cussedness, political apathy and spin-doctoring where the state was inventing ways to keep workers hostage, where the central government was passing on the buck to state governments, where the opposition was busy in one-upmanship and when the ruling party used bizarre spin and disinformation to wriggle out. She might note that the facts of the case were so straightforward that you would have to make an effort to get confused. She might wonder whether you and I were willing to suspend disbelief, lest it disrupt our lockdown peace.




 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
Let my people go....


Labouring masses have tried walking great distances with their kith and kin. Very few have made it to their home towns and villages. Some have died in this regard, some have been beaten to death while trying to reach their distance, some have been chased away to loiter on the streets, some have killed themselves and some have tried resting their heads on railway tracks only to be mowed, crushed and torn by those heavy metal wheels. Many have been stuck in their metal caves, pathetic living conditions and many more "sheltered" in those suffocating metal containers. The thick heat of summer and the brutal social distancing mechanisms make the situation worst for those exposed to these grave realities.

I have been in Bangalore ever since my birth. I have seen how this city has evolved in terms o land, resource and people, over time. The boom of MNCs and IT industries completely turned the tables for life in this place. MNCs and the IT sectors created an environment where, the demand for land, resource and people grew to great heights. The agencies in support with MNCs and IT sectors called for and imported people from every nook and corner of this country. MNCs and the IT industries have made this city cosmopolitan in every sense of the word, along with its disparities.

Bangalore was assumed to be the cradle for young minds and "achievers", the bright and the charming, along with those who are willing to contribute to the "great" social change. Bangalore
also became a place where the poor and the left out could imagine some sort of simple mundane earnings. The city grabbed the attention of many foreign investors. Land and related resources had become a prime concern. Traditional agriculturalists who were the caste lords of the land became real estate owners. Land mafias and human trading mafias with corruption and politicians with criminal records joined the forum with MNC and IT goons. Stylish and Hybrid bloodsucking, pain-inflicting and democracy killing, post-modern warlords turned the course of the city upside down.


Capitalism in the city is grained with caste and patriarchal notions. This dangerous nexus of age-old oppressive systems and new-age slave market with their political backing created this inhumane ruckus today. NEWS 18, on 9th May, recorded how the local builders had lodged cases on activists who were trying to help the migrant workers reach their home towns and villages through the government allotted trains. Activists, Journalists, Social Workers and people concerning the lives of migrant workers, have many such stories to report, record and speak about in various capacities. Another effort that is to be taken into serious consideration is a Documentary titled SABOOT, by two vibrant women Yashaswini and Ekta. These brave women cracked the silence of the migrant workers in Bangalore. The documentary reveals the grave reality of how BMRCL has treated and is treating its migrant workers in these painstaking times.

A few weeks back our prime minister apologised to the poor of the country assuming that they will forgive him instantly. While he engages with apathy, indifference and gimmicks, the plight of the migrated workers all around the country are reaching disasters that can have no compensations. Alongside with these grave realities, we have a stupid bunch of young people, from certain caste and class groups both men and women ranting on the social media about their migrant status, "me too migrant" campaign.

Modi Ji's, intelligentsia and politics fail once again like how mainstream politics in India has failed miserably from the very beginning of the independent state. The populist politics in the world today lack the social emancipation dimensions. When the COVID 19, was on its trolls in China, parts of the Middle East and western countries, Italy and Spain, political stalwarts like Modi and Trump where busy soothing each other's egos. The home minister of the country was busy in horse-trading. The prevailing cabinet was busy conspiring violence against the critical voices in the context of CAA, NPR, NRC related protests all over the country. Time and again our country fails in terms with a social commitment to justice and well being of the simple in our societies.

Time to be Critically Conscienctized (Paulo Freire), Time to be spect-actors(Augusto Boal) and Time to be critically informed and engage like the greatest labouring peace activist this world has ever witnessed in the modern era, DR. Ambedkar, for a better today and tomorrow.

 
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prasad1

prasad1

Gold Member
Gold Member
(This story originally appeared in on May 12, 2020)

A caravan of misery is winding its way down India’s highways as the exodus of migrant workers from its Covid-scarred cities and industrial townships head for home on foot, battered bikes, crammed into the backs of trucks, any which way they can.

All along the 800km, Pune-to-Bhopal stretch of the Mumbai-Agra NH, thousands upon thousands of migrant workers, children in arms, stumbling along, are stretched out in unending lines. Almost every truck that passes by is a refuge on wheels. Exhausted people sleep on the roadside. Children cry in hunger. Mothers cast anguished glances at vehicles that won’t stop.

Pic 1


At MP’s Sendhwa around 4am on Sunday, the beam of a truck’s headlamps landed on a wailing child not more than four years old. He and his family were travelling in the back of the truck ahead – with pots and pans and whatever was left of their life in Pune.

In UP’s Lalitpur district, a 26-year-old woman gave birth to a baby girl under a roadside tree in Balabheat village last Saturday. Along with a dozen other migrant workers, she had set out on a 500km trek from Dhar in MP back to her native village of Barkhariya.

On Monday, TOI came across at least four workers who had breached a containment zone in Pune and started trudging towards Satna in MP, more than 1,100km away, via NH-30. “Kya karein? Ab humara dimaag kaam karna band ho gaya aur hum aise hi latak gaye hai (What to do? My brain has stopped working and I am stranded),” 34-year-old Mahesh Shankar said.

 

Jaykay767

Well-known member
Terrible human tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes. Shame on this govt and its legion of bakths. Where is your humanity ??

For every small criticism, the legion of baths and supporters run to defend this govt. can you all not put pressure on your believed govt to give money and food to these crores of migrants walking back 100s of kms, ??

This is where the opposition has also failed. They should have raised a hue and cry at the gigantic human tragedy.
 
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