Migrant Laborers and State Sponsored Cruelty

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

Daily the news paper reports a new harrowing story of migrant laborers perishing in an effort to reach their homes, to their loved ones, to their sense of safety. Right from the very beginning of lockdown, they were the first and inevitable casualty of this system wide shutdown. Both center and state governments are responsible for this state sponsored cruelty and yet, despite the horrid tales, governments are not showing any restrains in adding to the woes of the laborers.

There was no preparation to tackle the disease let alone make arrangements to feed or care for the stranded men, women and children. The plan was either on paper or on social media.  The common sense was to let these laborers go with special trains and buses right at the very beginning when corona infections were low.  In their native places, at least they would have been able to make use of govt. schemes and assistance programs that they can only use at their native place. Many government policies makes its difficult for a migrant labor from UP to use its benefits it in Maharashtra or other states. Societal bonds are strong in villages and rural areas which would have helped them in seeing through this crisis. Being away from home, without job or savings only added fuel to their fears of dying either from starvation or virus. It is this fear that compelled them to take thousands of miles journey on foot and it is this same fear that governments failed to understand.

The migrant laborers saw the ground reality right from the first day, they knew how this lockdown will turnout and all the boasting could not deter them from leaving. Now that governments have given up on lockdown and its every man for himself, some states are resorting to forcefully stopping migrants from leaving. It is very likely now that we may end up like Italy, United States or worse. There are already reports in some news outlets and gossips in online chatrooms that deaths are being under reported or not being reported at all. Covid-19 has reached in small cities and villages where medical facilities are abysmal or non existent.

We are all on our own now, the state has given up. But at least we have roof on our homes, lets think about those who have been rendered homeless. Least our leaders can do is show some sympathy with these laborers rather than rubbing salt on their wounds.

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