Friends and Comrades!

We are going through the darkest moment  in this country not because of the COVID-pandemic as much as the ill planned and insensitive lockdown and its distress borne out by millions of migrant workers across the country who are left to fend for themselves in the shelters and on the roads.

As the country enters lockdown 4.0, millions of migrant workers are still stranded in alien and hostile conditions away from their homes and living in very precarious, unstable conditions.  With no money and ration left and house owners demanding rents, workers across the states are desperateto return to their homes and villages.

Across the 4 lockdowns, migrant workers have taken to streets in desperation and protest with the primary demand of returning to their villages. The government, under tremendous pressure of industrial lobbies, have done selective opening of some of the industries and factories.  However, in many instances the workers have refused to rejoin work and demand a return. Many cities such as Surat , Mumbai, Chennai and nearby industrial areas like Tirupur; many parts in Kerala; and parts of Bengaluru continue to witness workers unrests, and desperate pleas from workers to return to their home states.

The situation in southern and western states is especially precarious for workers from north, east and north east states. In Tamil Nadu and other southern and western states, a large number of migrant workers are from Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Assam, Mizoram and Jammu and  Kashmir. Majority of them have not been paid their wages even for March. Their physical and mental states are on the verge of breakdown. Growing protests – individual and collective – go unheeded.  With yet another extension, and the explicit-complete absence of any protective net for the workers, including food and shelter, instances of workers deaths including suicides and accidents are rising daily. And thousands of workers walking or cycling across the length and breadth of the country is testimony to the abject negligence of the governments – states and central.

The stony silence of the central and state governments is deafening. They continue to keep all workers and their families and communities in complete dark. In Tamil Nadu, a large number of workers have filled the forms released by the government over a week ago. But as late as till May 13th, no information was released by the government as to how many Shramik specials will run, on what days and under what criteria workers were chosen for these trains. The schedule of trains released on May 13th shows that not a single train is there for Chhattisgarh, and only one train to Uttar Pradesh and no trains to north-east states or Jammu.

The condition is similar in most states, as workers’ ‘opportunity’ to go home is dependent to a great extent on the arbitrariness of local administration’s policies and (mis)communication between states. There are over 10 lakhs of workers who have registered in Haryana and are waiting to board trains. In Kerala, many scheduled Shramik trains were cancelled because of last minute administrative hassles. With the special passenger trains coming into various states, local-state administrations have concentrated on welcoming and testing passengers arriving in these trains, and removed Shramik trains off priority for now. While most states record lakhs of migrant workers in official data, the numbers of workers allowed to leave on trains have been abysmally low in comparison .

The central government has completely shirked off all responsibility for the welfare of ‘Those Who Make in India’, ensuring no testing and safe and clean quarantine facilities for the workers. Even for the sake of fighting the pandemic, labour camps were not decongested and workers were left to fend for themselves- space, food, water and money.

After two months of unspeakable hardships, the number of migrant workers walking from southern states like Tamil Nadu to their home states like Bihar, UP or Jharkhand are increasing in recent days. Workers continue to get beaten and roughed up by police and run over on highways and tracks every single day. The government continues to look the other way!

It is impossible for the workers to stay in urban cities and industrial centers for even a few more days as the economic situation is precarious. With minimal ration distributed in ad-hoc manner, house owners demanding rent and factories not paying wages for previous months, they have no option but to walk to their villages hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away with grave risk to their health and lives.

Let us all unite to demand immediately without any delay:

 

  1. A systematic and transparent schedule of running the Shramik specials be implemented by all state governments.
  2. Proper communication from government after registration of migrants including a network of helplines for migrant workers.
  3. Immediate arrangement free of cost needs be done to travel to destination states.
  4. Payment of all pending wages.
  5. An end to any pressure or coercive tactics on workers that is effectively giving rise to bonded labour conditions.

 

#MigrantLivesMatter

Migrant Workers Solidarity is a network for the rights of India’s migrant workers, presently engaged in providing relief and related updates to workers stranded in COVID-19 lockdown.

Email ID: migrantworkersolidarity@gmail.com


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