Lockdown has financially affected many people. Though this step was necessary to safeguard the interest of the population at large, we have seen that despite all its efforts, the government has failed to gain the trust of the lower-middle-class people who are now leaving for their villages.
The fact that thousands of labourers and daily wagers are marching towards their home towns is unnerving as well as dangerous, considering the COVID-19 outbreak.
While all the news channels are focusing on the plight of these poor people, there is another side of the story that also needs to be heard.
When I say that there is another side of the story, I do not mean to demean or disregard the hardships of these daily wagers, however, while sympathizing with them, I wish to bring to light a bigger picture.
Labourers and Daily Wagers’ Side of The Story
It is a known fact that migrants from small villages of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal come to industrial cities like Delhi, Jhajjar, Hisar, Noida, etc. in search of employment and livelihood. They work as factory labourers, daily wagers and do other jobs to feed themselves and their families.
Most of them do not have a permanent home in these cities and live on rent. While factory labourers, house-helps, etc. get monthly salaries in the first week of the month, the daily wagers barely make ends meet. They earn each day and eat out of that earning without any scope of savings.
The news of a complete national lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister on Monday, the 23rd of March at 8 PM.
While the labourers were worried about their employment status for the subsequent month, the daily wagers had nowhere to go. They didn’t have enough money to feed themselves even the next day.
Thus, these migrants chose to put their life and the life of their loved ones at stake and started walking towards their villages. Due to lockdown, public transport is not working and thus, walking was the only option. Disregarding the fear of getting affected by the pandemic, they moved towards their homes.
Despite all promises of food and proper facilities, their lack of faith in government pushed them to walk even barefoot to their destination. They didn’t mind the rain, hunger or the heat, their sole goal was to reach their homes as soon as they can.
They fear that due to lockdown and non-availability of work, they will die of starvation and the fear of not being able to feed one’s family can be frightening.
Despite all the schemes and efforts, the thought that this pandemic may lead to killing them by starvation has settled in their mind and it seems that nothing can change it. Following one another, thousands of migrants are waiting on the borders of various states, waiting for the buses allocated by the state government to come and pick them up.
While I completely empathize with the migrants, I do believe that blaming the government isn’t justified. As soon as the news of mass-migration of labourers and daily wagers was hatched, governments of various states took prompt action.
The door-to-door food delivery service and drives to feed the poor and downtrodden were already in action when this news broke out. The government and its officials made all efforts to ensure that these migrants are convinced to stay and avoid movements while making sure that their stomachs were full. Not only the government, but various private organizations and NGOs are also serving the poor in this time of crisis.
Apart from this, for those who were adamant to leave, the bus service has been provided.
Shelters on state borders have been arranged for these people. Going a step ahead, the District Magistrate of Noida announced that no landlord can ask for rent for a month and if he does, he would be subject to imprisonment of upto 2 years. All this is done to instill faith in these migrants. However, none of it seems to be of any help.
SHO Defence Colony is getting food distributed on Delhi-UP border and in his area.
DLF is providing food to more than 50,000 migrant labourers in Gurgaon twice a day in coordination with the District Administration. DLF Foundation has roped in Akshay Patra for delivery of hot cooked meals and their kitchen is providing 1 lakh meals a day for migrant labour.
This initiative is also being extended to NOIDA from yesterday. They have also distributed dry ration family packs for 5000 migrant families in Gurgaon, donated 50,000 face masks, 3 lakh examination gloves and sanitizers to the district authorities in Gurgaon and 25,000 face masks to the municipal authorities in Faridabad.
Impact of the Migration from Industrial Cities to Villages
All of us know that COVID-19 is a contagious disease and this is the reason why quarantine has been made compulsory. However, the migration by these labourers and daily wagers is defeating the purpose of quarantine and social distancing, thus exposing them and their families to greater risk.
Also, apart from the risk to their life, they are risking the lives of hundreds of villagers. Today, two cases of corona positive labourers came to light. Had they fled to their villages; they may have spread it further. Considering the lack of medical facilities in rural areas, this fleeing can be dangerous.
I do not condemn the order of DM of Noida regarding the charging of rent. However, this may affect various people negatively. Various people in Noida, especially elderly, are dependent on the rent they receive for their livelihood. They don’t have any other source of income and thus, this order by DM has put them in a very uncomfortable situation. The government should consider keeping their interest in mind as well.
I’ll repeat that I am not insensitive towards the plight of the migrants but it is time that they let go of their baseless fears when the government is doing enough for them. They need to settle where they are so that damage caused due to COVID-19 isn’t amplified.
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