Migrant workers desperate to return home

Ramesh K Singh

Varanasi: Desperate attempts shown by thousands of migrant workers in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Surat after recent shocking plight from Delhi to reach their villages/towns in Bihar, Jharkhand, Purvanchal (eastern UP) and other states, mainly of eastern India, violating all the norms of social distancing, have raised questions over the effective management by the authorities in both the central and state governments. All these big cities, which have become hubs for migrant workers in the recent decades, have also become the hotspots in the country during the spreading threats of worldwide coronavirus pandemic. As there was nationwide lockdown many could not succeed in their attempts as their counterparts had done earlier walking, days and nights, covering hundreds of miles. Just a few days ago, a youth came here from Mumbai, walking over 1000 miles in five days.

Why these migrant workers had made such desperate attempt despite extension of lockdown period and why the government failed to win their confidence are some of the questions on which the people of different sections reacted in this parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Wednesday. Recently, the city had seen hundreds of youths walking towards their homes in Purvanchal and adjoining states after covering hundreds of miles right from national capital.

‘When the government failed to win its confidence to care properly during lockdown, the migrant workers could not control their nostalgia and turned out to Bandra railway station in Mumbai in their desperate attempts to go to native places,’ said a senior political scientist from DAV Post-Graduate College Dr Arun Srivastava, adding that the incident has raised several questions over the government claims and ground realities. ‘This is Rabi crop harvesting season and most of these migrant workers belong to small and marginal farming families. Generally, they return homes during the season to harvest their crops so that their families living in villages can feed round the year. They generally visit native places twice during the year so that they can work in their fields for sowing and harvesting of Rabi and Kharif crops and they go to big cities to earn for fulfilling other needs of their families,’ said Srivastava, criticising the government for its failure to provide proper food and other articles to migrant workers so that they can pass their time without any stress during ongoing lockdown period.

However, his colleague of the same college and head of department Dr SB Singh held the concerned authorities responsible for mismanagement creating unrest among the migrant workers. ‘All the concept of welfare state has changed since 1990s since liberal economy was introduced in the country. It helped small business houses emerge and many cities saw remarkable growth becoming potential hubs for such migrant labourers. However, in this hour of worldwide crisis neither the government nor the employers could win the confidence of these huge number of migrant workers that they would properly care after them,’ he said, adding that this failure was the main cause behind the recent tragedy, despite repeated promises of the PM that the government is serious to look after their grievances. ‘Besides, some rumours had fanned the flames,’ he said.

Local advocate Vivekanand Upadhyay also saw some well-planned conspiracy behind the episode of migrant workers. However, he also flayed Maharashtra government for failing to check the gatherings of huge number of people at railway station, especially in a city which has become the epicentre of coronavirus in the country. ‘It is the duty of the state government to ensure providing sufficient ration and food to such migrant workers and maintaining proper social distancing,’ he said, suggesting that closed government school buildings and other premises can be used for their proper shelters.

Local trader Jahangir Alam asked when the first case came into the light in January and the cases of positive COVID-19 were just around 500 when the PM addressed the nation for first time why the government had not run some special trains to help the migrant workers reach their native homes safely. ‘The management of a few cases is comparatively easy than a large number of cases as the same is visible in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. Anyhow, after recent tragic episode of Tablighi Jamaat Markaz, which had affected several districts in this belt of Puranchal, the administration has effectively control the spreading of coronavirus,’ he said, adding that if the government had shifted these migrant workers to their native homes, their respective districts can also did the same easily than Mumbai and Delhi, especially when if they fail to prevent further spike in cases. ‘We’ve seen some tragic examples of New York and some other European cities,’ he said.

(Curtsey The Pioneer)



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