On March 31, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that there were no transient workers on the streets given the measures governments had embraced to house and feed them in different states. This accommodation was made after petitions were moved requesting that the Center demonstration to turn away a philanthropic emergency, as workers started strolling many miles to return to their local towns and towns.
On Tuesday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi tended to the country to report a Rs 20 lakh crore monetary boost, labourers were all the while taking to the expressways in enormous numbers attempting to get back home.
There can be no uncertainty over the way that vagrant workers emergency is the aftereffect of government indifference. Regardless of near two months going since the transient emergency started with the abrupt implementation of the across the country lockdown on March 25 to shorten the spread of Covid-19, the Center has not thought that it was important to set up a team to assist migrants with arriving at their homes.
Meanwhile, the Centre has indicated energetic willingness in helping the more prosperous. Early May, it chose to mount a monstrous crucial Vande Bharat to bring back those abandoned in different nations due to the worldwide Covid-19 circumstance.
There have been inconsistent fights by the workers in urban areas like Mumbai and Surat, however the size of these fights was nothing contrasted with the size of the emergency. With dread of law acting against them in the event that they amass to affirm their rights, workers have quietly persevered through incomprehensible hardship. With no cash close by and even food being rare, many strolled miles with just rolls and snacks for a singular dinner daily.
In any case, this circumstance has neglected to move the state satisfactorily. While special trains were propelled to convey the migrants back to their homes on May 1, the trains were far and scarcely any given the sheer number of transients stuck outside their home states. To exacerbate the situation, as the lockdown arrives at its fag end one week from now, the administrations, constrained by an industry that is stressed over restarting production and administrations, are treating workers like wares.
On May 5, the Karnataka government chose to cancel the special trains after pressure from builders. A public outcry forced the state government to change this stand a day later. Last week, the Uttar Pradesh government passed an ordinance that effectively suspended 35 of the 38 labour laws in force in the state to boost investment.
This has led to great tragedies. In Maharashtra’s Aurangabad, 16 labourers sleeping on the tracks were run over last week. Elsewhere, migrants walking back have been run over by cars or killed when overloaded vehicles tipped over.
Activists and labour unions have heavily criticised these flawed attempts to take the workers back home. The groups said on Tuesday that the government has since April 29 issued four orders on migrant travel. Of these, the first three, they alleged, were “confusing and conflicting”, while the order issued on Monday was “incomplete and vague”, and the travel protocols established by various states have many gaps. The organisations added that a second exodus of migrant labourers to their hometowns has begun.
It is true that the industries will need workers to restart their production and in turn the economy. But this cannot be a reason to violate the most fundamental of rights there is in the Constitution: the right to life and livelihood.
A more compassionate government would have by now taken up the cause of the migrants on a war footing, setting up a task force equivalent to the Ministry of External Affairs team that is arranging for Indians across the world to come home as part of the Vande Bharat mission. Instead, the Centre has left it to the states and moved on.
Migrant workers have always been invisible to India’s policymakers, which is why the current crisis erupted as it is. By yet again ignoring the concerns of the migrants and treating them as expendable, the Centre is perpetuating this disastrous error.
Just as it sees the Covid-19 crisis as an economic opportunity to reshape Indian industry, why can’t the government take the migrant crisis – and indeed the images of hundreds of people walking home in despair – as a chance to fix its approach towards this vulnerable population? Indeed needs a Vande Bharat mission for internal migrants attempting to get home, one that factors in the likelihood that these citizens may want to return to the states where they work in when they feel safer.
And if the industries and the governments want workers to return to factories and offices, this should be done through incentives and not force. The choice to return should be that of the workers and not the whims of the industry. Anything else would be an inhuman treatment of the workers.
Article Witten by- Lavanya Ambalkar
Law Student- (Symbiosis Law School, Pune)
(HRDI Work from Home Internship)