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 LaddhaChennai Mathematical Institute
2.             Madhusudhan RamanTIFR, Mumbai
3.             Subham Dutta ChowdhuryTIFR, Mumbai
4.             Suvrat RajuInternational Centre for Theoretical Sciences
5.             DebaleenaPhD Student
6.             Rohit Kishan RayIIT Kharagpur
7.             Suman KunduTata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
8.             Aranya BhattacharyaSRF, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata
9.             Aradhita ChattopadhyayaTrinity college Dublin
10.          Bihan BanerjeePhD Student, TIFR Mumbai
11.          Pranjal NayakUniversity of Geneva
12.          Lavneet JanagalKorea Institute For Advanced Study
13.          Debangshu MukherjeeIISER-Thiruvananthapuram
14.          Sayali A. BhatkarIISER Pune
15.          Shiva ShankarVisiting Professor, IIT Bombay
16.          PROF. SUSHRUT JADHAVUniversity College London
17.          Gopa SardarResearch Scholar, IIT Bombay
18.          Pratik SarkarBoston University
19.          rohan poojaryTechnical University Vienna, Austria
20.          Sunandita PaulResearch Scholar, TIFR
21.          anupam a hIMSc, Chennai
22.          Adwait GaikwadTata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
23.          MANUJ MUKHERJEEBar Ilan University
24.          Arnab Priya SahaHarish-Chandra Research Institute
25.          Pavan DharanipragadaIMSc Chennai
26.          Ronak M SoniStanford University
27.          shivaniPostdoctoral fellow
28.          Prashant KocherlakotaInstitute for Theoretical Physics, Frankfurt
29.          Sreya Dutta ChowdhuryResearcher University of Leipzig
30.          Adwitee RoyChennai Mathematical Institute
31.          Pratik RoyIIT Madras
32.          Rina RoyHomemaker
33.          Dattaraj DhuriNew York University Abu Dhabi
34.          Kevin DsouzaPh.D. researcher, University of British Columbia
35.          Aditi DudejaRutgers University
36.          Swadheenananda PattanayakRetired Professor of Mathematics,formerly Director of Institute of Mathematics and Applications, Bhubaneswar
37.          Raghu MahajanStanford University
38.          Shalin Joseshaliniiser16@iisertvm.ac.in
39.          Manibrata SenUC Berkeley
40.          Bobby EzhuthachanRKMVERI
41.          Dileep JatkarHRI Allahabad
42.          Jayati GhoshUniversity of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA
43.          Anandita DeGraduate Student
44.          Siddharth JoshiIndependent Researcher
45.          Bindhulakshmi PattadathTata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
46.          Saravanan VJawaharlal Nehru University
47.          Rakesh RanjanTata Institute of Social Sciences
48.          Arghya ChattopadhyayPostdoctoral Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand
49.          SHILPA KASTHAAlbert Einstein Institute Hannover
50.          Bhawna ShivanJNU
51.          Srestha ChatterjeeMASTER’S STUDENT IN SOCIOLOGY
52.          Anushka RawatStudent
53.          Mehjabin Nargees M PCollege student
54.          Arpan KunduSRF, IMSC
55.          Umang DattaniPhD student, IMSc, Chennai.
56.          Suchetan DasIIT KANPUR
57.          Aneesh P BChennai Mathematical Institute
58.          Abhishek MUKHOPADHYAYQuant Analyst
59.          Anindya ChandaPhD Student, Florida State University
60.          TANAY DEYVECC
61.          SUBHANKAR MANDALResearch Fellow, SINP, Kolkata
62.          Jayanti NathStudent
63.          Kaberi GoswamiChennai Mathematical Institute
64.          Jaydeep Kumar BasakPhD scholar, IIT Kanpur
65.          Mahua MahataStudent
66.          Pratiti MandalSRF, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology
67.          Ushasri MukherjeeResearch Scholar
68.          SANDIP MAITISINP
69.          AbhirupIIT Kharagpur
70.          Habib A. MondalJRF, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics
71.          Anurag KaushalTIFR
72.          Soumen MondalJRF
73.          Vani SharmaLawyer
74.          Debolina BandyopadhyaySINP
75.          Akhila MohanBITS-Goa
76.          Avik PaulSaha institute of Nuclear Physics, kolkata
77.          SOUMYODEEP BANERJEEJRF, USIC, The University of Burdwan
78.          Kinjal BanerjeeBITS Goa
79.          Indranil ChakrabortyPhD scholar
80.          SYEDA SAGUFTA SULTANAWest Bengal State University, JRF
81.          Sayan DasguptaIIT Kharagpur
82.          Manoj KumarPhD student
83.          Meenakshi KumariResearch Scholar
84.          Ajjath A HIMSc Chennai
85.          Arghya DuttaStudent
86.          Aritra BandyopadhyayPost Doctoral Fellow
87.          Aravindhan SCharles University, Prague
88.          Minhaj MunshiM.Sc Student, Midnapore College
89.          Sudip MandalPhD student
90.          Sambo sarkarIIT Kharagpur
91.          Soumi DeLos Alamos National Laboratory, USA
92.          Chaitanya AfleGraduate Student, Syracuse University
93.          Bharath SambasivamPhD candidate, Syracuse University
94.          Soumitro BanerjeeIISER Kolkata
95.          Rudranil BasuBITS Pilani, Goa
96.          Kaustav ChakrabortyPhysical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad
97.          Soumavo GhoshIIA Bangalore
98.          Sagar Kumar MaityM.Sc. student, S N Bose National Center for Basic Sciences
99.          Parthajit BiswasIIT Kanpur
100.        Subhra Ranjan KarmakarBTech student, NIT Durgapur
101.        Rupsa BhattacharjeePhD scholar at IIT Delhi
102.        Subhra Kumar MukhopadhyayRetired Professor
103.        ManuChennai Mathematical Institute
104.        Tathagata GhoshIUCAA
105.        SUJOY MAHATOIMSc
106.        Sharvaree VadgamaUniversity of Amsterdam
107.        L.DeviResearch scholar
108.        SRUTHY MURALICMI
109.         Naveena Kumara APhD Student
110.               Monodeep ChakrabortyFreelancer
111.        Preeti SahuIST AUSTRIA
112.        Atisdipankar ChakrabartiTeacher
113.        Nirmalya KajuriIndian Association for Cultivation of Science
114.        Bijoy MathewIISER Thiruvananthapuram
115.        Sucheta MajumdarUniversité Libre de Bruxelles
116.        Sugato MukhopadhyayIndian Statistical Institute
117.        Abhiram KaushikUniversity of Zagreb
118.        Apurba DasPostdoctoral Fellow, IIT Kanpur
119.        Kazi Rafsanjani AminCEA, Grenoble. Postdoctoral researcher
120.        Dibyendu Sekhar MandalAssistant Professor, Amity University Mumbai
121.        Swagato Kumar RayIndian Statistical Institute
122.        Abhishek SenapatiPostdoc
123.        Jayanta SarkarISI Kolkata
124.        Mrinal Kanti DasIndian Statistical Institute
125.        Ujjal DasIMSc
126.        Biltu DanIISc
127.        Rahul RoyIndian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
128.        Rajat Subhra HazraAssociate Professor
129.        Sohini BhattacharyyaRice University, Texas, USA
130.        Sushreyo MisraResearch Associate, Rice University
131.        Ananya BanikPostdoc, University of Münster
132.        Soumen ChakravartyIT sales
133.        Syamantak RoyJncasr
134.        B AnanthanarayanIndian Institute of Science
135.        Tara SinghaIIT Kharagpur
136.        Sarbajaya KunduPostdoctoral Fellow, University of Sherbrooke
137.        Sreoshi BanerjeeIndian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
138.        Siddharth KrishnaMicrosoft Research, UK
139.        Sujay AshokIMSc faculty
140.        Arkajyoti MannaInstitute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai
141.        Surabhi TiwariThe Institute of Mathematical Sciences
142.        Sumati SuryaRaman Research Institute
143.        Sourav BallavPostdoctoral fellow
144.        prashanth ramanIndian Institute of Science
145.        Mugdha SarkarPostdoc, Bielefeld University
146.        AparnaImsc
147.        Saptarsi GhosalIndian Statistical Institute, Delhi
148.        Raghvendra SinghIMSc
149.        NomaanRaman Research Institute
150.        Sonali SathayeAnthropologist/teacher
151.        Ira SanyalDesigner
152.        RVN/A
153.        K. G. ArunCMI
154.        Ritisha MishraHR Manager
155.        Anurag TiwariKent State University
156.        AbhilashaMedia Specialist
157.        Soumyabrata RoyRice University, USA.
158.        Chandradhish GhoshResearcher, IMIB-HIRI Würzburg

 

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