Lockdown 8:Plight of Migrants
Lockdown 8:Plight of Migrants3 mins 12K 3 mins 12K
In the second week of March, just after Holi, I traveled from Mumbai to Agra where I had some urgent personal work. My visit to Agra was planned months earlier when Corona-virus was unknown to humans. When we started our trip, China was already affected and it was being discussed that the Virus had entered India from abroad. There was even a travel advisory asking citizens not to travel unless it was necessary, but the seriousness of the virus attack was still unknown to most of us.
By the time we were ready to return to Mumbai after a week’s stay in Agra, things were hotting up. Malls, theaters, and historical monuments were being ordered to shut down. It was being said that trains and buses will be suspended. Mumbai, we gathered could be badly hit by the virus. We boarded our train to find it practically empty. The curtains of the AC coach were stripped and the usual blankets were not given. I realized that the virus story is real and something horrible was happening.
We got down at Kalyan and I was greeted by the sight of long queues of men, women and children standing on the platforms, presumably waiting for trains. I wondered why there were so many hundreds of people, most of them poor, were thronging the station.
Later, I realized that these were migrants who had come from UP, Bihar and other far off states to work in Mumbai; and they were all leaving the city due to Covid 19 threat, and the news that train services were being suspended. They were all desperate to return to their homes.
A few days later a complete Lockdown was declared by the PM and it was then that the mayhem began. India has about 40 million migrant workers who leave their villages and homes to work in different states. The lockdown meant that there was no work for them anymore, and no wages.
Most of us, fortunate enough to be locked down in our own homes, hardly realize what it is like to be stranded in the streets without a roof to live and money to buy essential things. The migrants are hard pressed to return to their villages as they face imminent starvation and death without food or shelter for what it seems to be an indefinite lockdown.
It is not surprising that these desperate souls, despite the lack of means to travel, have taken courage to walk for hundreds of miles to go back to their home where at least they can manage to survive.
I read about the 12-year-old girl who walked with her parents from Telangana to Chhattisgarh, only to collapse and die because of exhaustion just 14 kilometers away from her village. The government's fear that allowing these poor and desperate migrants to return will mean that they will carry the virus across the country. The migrants fear that if they do not get back to their village, they would die on the streets with no one to care for them. Despite help and assurances by governments, these migrants seem to be determined to defy lockdown and the virus. They also fear that if they seek government help, they could end up in hospitals and quarantine centers as virus suspects.
In my personal view, the plight of the migrants is perhaps one of the worst threats after the Covid19 threat. I shudder to think what will happen to them after the virus retreats. Will life for them get back to normal?