Migrant Labourers and Lockdowns

Migrant Workers

It is now painfully clear that the Government of India has been woefully underprepared for the second wave of COVID-19. The resulting misgovernance [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, 9] is precipitating the announcement of partial or total lockdowns in various states to break the chain of infections. 

Like last year, informal workers have been left to fend for themselves and among them migrant workers are once again in extremely precarious situations. While there have been no formal restrictions on inter-state travel, the unavailability of train tickets has left many stranded [10]. Additionally, private bus tickets are being sold at exorbitant rates. A second lockdown-induced migration is underway, with workers in Maharashtra, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and many other cities trying to return to their hometowns, their future uncertain and the possibility of a daily wage for basic sustenance becoming more and more distant. It is clear that no lessons have been learned over this past year, and the same mistakes are being repeated by those in power. 

This situation is in many respects similar to last year, when India was at the beginning of the first wave of COVID-19 and GOI announced a short-sighted, unplanned lockdown on 25 March 2020. The sheer callousness and idiocy of the move was underscored by horror stories of unmitigated suffering of migrant labourers [11,12,13,14]. The government’s failure was threefold. Firstly, the government failed to ensure free, accessible transport in time [15] for the migrant workers back to their hometowns, which led to a mass exodus on foot in the harsh Indian summer during which many lost their lives [16]. Secondly, the government’s policies, which were meant to support them during this time, such as MGNREGA, PDS and direct cash transfer scheme PMGKY, fell woefully short of target [17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23]. Thirdly, the government’s subsequent decision to open up the country when the first wave was peaking led to a mass re-exodus [24], rendering its own viewpoint on the lockdown void. The subsequent “amendments to the labour laws” [25, 26, 27] put them at the mercy of their employers thus endangering the already socially and financially insecure migrant workforce. 

The government has, once again, failed the people. In one crucial respect, the situation this time is even more grim as the disease has well and truly spread over rural areas. The reverse migration of workers from cities will put an incomprehensible burden on the rural economy and healthcare facilities which, as reports indicate from states like Bihar, are already on the verge of collapse. In order for stations, bus stands and highways to not become clustered, the state must ensure a smooth transport facility to workers, who wish to return.

It is imperative that the government (centre and states) take into account the difficulties these lockdowns entail for migrant workers and workers in the unorganised sector. Based on the lessons learned from the nationwide lockdown in 2020, we immediately demand the following:

  1. The government must announce, at the earliest, the introduction of special trains for migrant workers across different states as well as increase the number of government buses to facilitate ease of travel for migrant workers.
  2. Every state government must ensure that wages for preceding months prior to the lockdown are paid in full and for stranded workers, wages continue to be paid as long as lockdown continues.
  3. State governments and Industries must bear the responsibility for accommodation of those workers who have been left unemployed due to lockdown and closure of factories.
  4. In every basti, awareness about the seriousness of the disease should be spread and free vaccines should be made available to all, including out-of-state migrants.
  5. MGNREGA is likely to be a lifesaver for the rural economy in the coming months and we urge the government to immediately increase MGNREGA spending and clear all the previous dues to the state governments. Without this, a large section of the rural population will face indebtedness and starvation.
  6. We firmly believe that the PDS rations  should be made available to all the citizens in need irrespective of their state of residence and irrespective of their identification documents.

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the apathy shown by the central and state governments with regard to the cause of toiling people of this country including the millions of migrant workers, and urge them to take the aforementioned points into account before making hasty and callous decisions on lockdowns.


1.     Alok Laddha Chennai Mathematical Institute
2.             Madhusudhan Raman TIFR, Mumbai
3.             Subham Dutta Chowdhury TIFR, Mumbai
4.             Suvrat Raju International Centre for Theoretical Sciences
5.             Debaleena PhD Student
6.             Rohit Kishan Ray IIT Kharagpur
7.             Suman Kundu Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
8.             Aranya Bhattacharya SRF, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata
9.             Aradhita Chattopadhyaya Trinity college Dublin
10.          Bihan Banerjee PhD Student, TIFR Mumbai
11.          Pranjal Nayak University of Geneva
12.          Lavneet Janagal Korea Institute For Advanced Study
13.          Debangshu Mukherjee IISER-Thiruvananthapuram
14.          Sayali A. Bhatkar IISER Pune
15.          Shiva Shankar Visiting Professor, IIT Bombay
16.          PROF. SUSHRUT JADHAV University College London
17.          Gopa Sardar Research Scholar, IIT Bombay
18.          Pratik Sarkar Boston University
19.          rohan poojary Technical University Vienna, Austria
20.          Sunandita Paul Research Scholar, TIFR
21.          anupam a h IMSc, Chennai
22.          Adwait Gaikwad Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
23.          MANUJ MUKHERJEE Bar Ilan University
24.          Arnab Priya Saha Harish-Chandra Research Institute
25.          Pavan Dharanipragada IMSc Chennai
26.          Ronak M Soni Stanford University
27.          shivani Postdoctoral fellow
28.          Prashant Kocherlakota Institute for Theoretical Physics, Frankfurt
29.          Sreya Dutta Chowdhury Researcher University of Leipzig
30.          Adwitee Roy Chennai Mathematical Institute
31.          Pratik Roy IIT Madras
32.          Rina Roy Homemaker
33.          Dattaraj Dhuri New York University Abu Dhabi
34.          Kevin Dsouza Ph.D. researcher, University of British Columbia
35.          Aditi Dudeja Rutgers University
36.          Swadheenananda Pattanayak Retired Professor of Mathematics,formerly Director of Institute of Mathematics and Applications, Bhubaneswar
37.          Raghu Mahajan Stanford University
38.          Shalin Jose [email protected]
39.          Manibrata Sen UC Berkeley
40.          Bobby Ezhuthachan RKMVERI
41.          Dileep Jatkar HRI Allahabad
42.          Jayati Ghosh University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA
43.          Anandita De Graduate Student
44.          Siddharth Joshi Independent Researcher
45.          Bindhulakshmi Pattadath Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
46.          Saravanan V Jawaharlal Nehru University
47.          Rakesh Ranjan Tata Institute of Social Sciences
48.          Arghya Chattopadhyay Postdoctoral Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand
49.          SHILPA KASTHA Albert Einstein Institute Hannover
50.          Bhawna Shivan JNU
51.          Srestha Chatterjee MASTER’S STUDENT IN SOCIOLOGY
52.          Anushka Rawat Student
53.          Mehjabin Nargees M P College student
54.          Arpan Kundu SRF, IMSC
55.          Umang Dattani PhD student, IMSc, Chennai.
56.          Suchetan Das IIT KANPUR
57.          Aneesh P B Chennai Mathematical Institute
58.          Abhishek MUKHOPADHYAY Quant Analyst
59.          Anindya Chanda PhD Student, Florida State University
60.          TANAY DEY VECC
61.          SUBHANKAR MANDAL Research Fellow, SINP, Kolkata
62.          Jayanti Nath Student
63.          Kaberi Goswami Chennai Mathematical Institute
64.          Jaydeep Kumar Basak PhD scholar, IIT Kanpur
65.          Mahua Mahata Student
66.          Pratiti Mandal SRF, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology
67.          Ushasri Mukherjee Research Scholar
68.          SANDIP MAITI SINP
69.          Abhirup IIT Kharagpur
70.          Habib A. Mondal JRF, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics
71.          Anurag Kaushal TIFR
72.          Soumen Mondal JRF
73.          Vani Sharma Lawyer
74.          Debolina Bandyopadhyay SINP
75.          Akhila Mohan BITS-Goa
76.          Avik Paul Saha institute of Nuclear Physics, kolkata
77.          SOUMYODEEP BANERJEE JRF, USIC, The University of Burdwan
78.          Kinjal Banerjee BITS Goa
79.          Indranil Chakraborty PhD scholar
80.          SYEDA SAGUFTA SULTANA West Bengal State University, JRF
81.          Sayan Dasgupta IIT Kharagpur
82.          Manoj Kumar PhD student
83.          Meenakshi Kumari Research Scholar
84.          Ajjath A H IMSc Chennai
85.          Arghya Dutta Student
86.          Aritra Bandyopadhyay Post Doctoral Fellow
87.          Aravindhan S Charles University, Prague
88.          Minhaj Munshi M.Sc Student, Midnapore College
89.          Sudip Mandal PhD student
90.          Sambo sarkar IIT Kharagpur
91.          Soumi De Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA
92.          Chaitanya Afle Graduate Student, Syracuse University
93.          Bharath Sambasivam PhD candidate, Syracuse University
94.          Soumitro Banerjee IISER Kolkata
95.          Rudranil Basu BITS Pilani, Goa
96.          Kaustav Chakraborty Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad
97.          Soumavo Ghosh IIA Bangalore
98.          Sagar Kumar Maity M.Sc. student, S N Bose National Center for Basic Sciences
99.          Parthajit Biswas IIT Kanpur
100.        Subhra Ranjan Karmakar BTech student, NIT Durgapur
101.        Rupsa Bhattacharjee PhD scholar at IIT Delhi
102.        Subhra Kumar Mukhopadhyay Retired Professor
103.        Manu Chennai Mathematical Institute
104.        Tathagata Ghosh IUCAA
105.        SUJOY MAHATO IMSc
106.        Sharvaree Vadgama University of Amsterdam
107.        L.Devi Research scholar
109.         Naveena Kumara A PhD Student
110.               Monodeep Chakraborty Freelancer
111.        Preeti Sahu IST AUSTRIA
112.        Atisdipankar Chakrabarti Teacher
113.        Nirmalya Kajuri Indian Association for Cultivation of Science
114.        Bijoy Mathew IISER Thiruvananthapuram
115.        Sucheta Majumdar Université Libre de Bruxelles
116.        Sugato Mukhopadhyay Indian Statistical Institute
117.        Abhiram Kaushik University of Zagreb
118.        Apurba Das Postdoctoral Fellow, IIT Kanpur
119.        Kazi Rafsanjani Amin CEA, Grenoble. Postdoctoral researcher
120.        Dibyendu Sekhar Mandal Assistant Professor, Amity University Mumbai
121.        Swagato Kumar Ray Indian Statistical Institute
122.        Abhishek Senapati Postdoc
123.        Jayanta Sarkar ISI Kolkata
124.        Mrinal Kanti Das Indian Statistical Institute
125.        Ujjal Das IMSc
126.        Biltu Dan IISc
127.        Rahul Roy Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
128.        Rajat Subhra Hazra Associate Professor
129.        Sohini Bhattacharyya Rice University, Texas, USA
130.        Sushreyo Misra Research Associate, Rice University
131.        Ananya Banik Postdoc, University of Münster
132.        Soumen Chakravarty IT sales
133.        Syamantak Roy Jncasr
134.        B Ananthanarayan Indian Institute of Science
135.        Tara Singha IIT Kharagpur
136.        Sarbajaya Kundu Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sherbrooke
137.        Sreoshi Banerjee Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
138.        Siddharth Krishna Microsoft Research, UK
139.        Sujay Ashok IMSc faculty
140.        Arkajyoti Manna Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai
141.        Surabhi Tiwari The Institute of Mathematical Sciences
142.        Sumati Surya Raman Research Institute
143.        Sourav Ballav Postdoctoral fellow
144.        prashanth raman Indian Institute of Science
145.        Mugdha Sarkar Postdoc, Bielefeld University
146.        Aparna Imsc
147.        Saptarsi Ghosal Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi
148.        Raghvendra Singh IMSc
149.        Nomaan Raman Research Institute
150.        Sonali Sathaye Anthropologist/teacher
151.        Ira Sanyal Designer
152.        RV N/A
153.        K. G. Arun CMI
154.        Ritisha Mishra HR Manager
155.        Anurag Tiwari Kent State University
156.        Abhilasha Media Specialist
157.        Soumyabrata Roy Rice University, USA.
158.        Chandradhish Ghosh Researcher, IMIB-HIRI Würzburg


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