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Flawed planning -Inhuman treatment of the workers

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on January 15, 2021 with No Comments

One week into the first lockdown in India, the Centre government lead by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had informed the highest court of the nation that there were no migrant labourers on the road as the government had adopted measure to house them and feed them in various states. This submission was made after petitions were moved asking the Centre to act as there have been cases in Delhi and Mumbai where the migrants had collected at railway stations to go back to their homes.

It is ironical that what the petitioners could see in the end of March, only came to the knowledge of various governments only in the middle of May, a good six weeks later! On May 12th, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi addressed the nation to announce a Rs 20 Lakh core economic stimulus, Immigrants were on the highways in large number trying to get back home, almost all of them on foot. However, there was no mention of their plight!

There are heart-wrenching visuals, of lakhs and lakhs of labor walking down the various Indian highways when they should be confining themselves to the four walls of their houses. They have been made to take this extreme step as they have lost all hopes of getting back to work. 29 immigrants have lost their lives in this attempt. There is no doubt that the migrant labor crisis is a result of flawed planning on the part of the government and shows how the capitalists treat their workers and how they give two hoots to government’s directions.  On 29 March, the home ministry made it compulsory and legally bound for salaries and wages be paid even during the lockdown period.  Yet, a majority of the workers remained unpaid even for the period they worked in March. Both the centre and state government were aware of these facts.  Governments, NGOs, volunteers, religious sects and even the police were busy feeding migrant workers meals and they were getting a feedback that the workers would like to go back to their homes, as they have not been paid. Nevertheless, the governments did not act. Despite close to two months since the migrant crisis began with sudden enforcement of the nationwide lockdown announced on March 25 to stop the spread of Covid 19, the centre and the state governments did not find it necessary to establish a task force to help migrants reach home.

On the other hand, the Centre has shown much eagerness in bringing back Indians that are more prosperous stranded in other countries and launched a massive mission called Vande Bharat. While getting them back all norms of social distancing , scanning before boarding the flight to having a medical fitness certificate are ensured, the migrant labor have been left to fend for themselves. While walking thousands of miles, they have silently endured unfathomable hardship.  With no money in hand and even food being scarce, many walked miles empty stomach only to be turned away from the state borders. Those who managed to reach their villages, found themselves unacceptable as their own villagers had put up barricades not to allow them to enter, as they could be carriers of the virus. To make the matter worse for them as the Interstate borders, they had to face the lathi yielding cops!  A complete breakdown of planning on the part of the various governments. When the government could plan the Vante Bharat flight for NRIs, it only woke up to the reality and started few trains to take the migrants back home. May 1, the trains were far and few given the sheer number of migrants stuck outside their home states. The migrants were expected to book their tickets on line, assuming each one of them have smart phone! As if the government is not aware of the status of it’s much exaggerated program Digital India. The government has started assisting their movement when it has just decided to open up most of the business, and there has been no attempt by it to apprise and convince them to stay back, but for the state of Punjab where only fifty percent of those holding valid tickets have boarded trains and rest have decided to get back to work being offered by their employers.  On the other hand the story emerging from the state of Karnatka is unpleasant. 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. At the same time, Uttar Pradesh government passed an ordinance that effectively suspended 35 of the 38 labour laws in force in the state to boost investment. That’s the power that the capitalists yield over the governments in India.

Now, whenever the industry and the government want workers to return to work, it may not be easy for them to achieve so. As the migrants feel cheated and dejected. The choice to return should be that of the workers and not the whims of the industry. Anything else would be another inhuman treatment of the workers.


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