Miseries of Migrant Workers

Author: Vrushali

The nationwide lockdown extension was announced on April 14th. It was declared that the lockdown will be extended till May 3. However, no declaration was made regarding the economic revival plan despite the urgency to curb the endless miseries of the migrant workers. Probably their miseries are as insignificant as their earnings and social status or their hassle is too feeble in the noise of mainstream politics and city-centric media.

Exodus of these migrant workers, walking across borders ‘barefoot’, trudging back to their native villages, is posing a huge issue of community spread of the virus as there are about 41.4 million (about 37% of the Indian population) who migrate for work.

They are stranded with no wages in hand and are supposed to suffer the marginalisation silently. These workers, who are mostly the sole breadwinners in their families, living thousands of kilometers away, barely make 200-300 rupees a day. Dignity of these labourers, howsoever sporadic the work and meagre the wage is, has been scraped out. They are slashed to stretching their hands for two meals a day.

It is poverty that strangles and stifles their very integrity and subsistence, and not the catastrophe of this virus. They cannot even buy a bar of soap to wash their hands as the world struck by the virus constantly demands. Their desperation is falling between the cracks and abysses in welfare measures. Their dwindling supplies, dearth of money and terrifying panic precipices their existence and an absence of agency in this microcosm.

In the eventuality of the lockdown being extended, many of the state governments have set up relief camps, community kitchens and announced cash transfers for such workers including hawkers, rickshaw pullers, construction site workers, labourers and other homeless citizens.

The Centre has approved Rs. 1.7 lakh crores to assuage the consequences of this pandemic on them too but majority of them are either unaware of the schemes or of the procedure to access them.

For instance, under the BOCW (Building and Other Construction Workers) Welfare fund, workers are to be provided income support. But most people are not eligible for these benefits as they do not have a BOCW card (about 94%).

The Centre has also increased the quantity of rice and wheat under the coronavirus relief package and have set it above what the EWS were entitled to. But the ground reality does not resonate with the announcements nor the entitlements are enough for their sustenance. Each discrepancy should be checked by the government in immediate effect.

In my opinion, the foremost step should be direct cash transfers to as many workers as possible. Intellectuals have also suggested measures regarding the inflow of cash, restoring food supply chain and direct procurement from farmers which the government must consider.

The most urgent of all measures should be to protect the migrant workers, understand their plight and ease up their lives to at least a considerable extent. They should be provided with transport facilities (while maintaining social distancing and screening them) to send them back to their hometowns or should be quarantined at well- equipped shelters.

As resourced citizens, we must reach out for their help or should at least donate for the relief funds and render support to these workers.

Let us watch out for the true essence of #weareallinthistogether and put efforts to make it happen.


This blog page serves as a platform for the Editorial department of The Hindu Education Plus Club at VIT Vellore. We provide opportunities to budding authors across campus to hone their writing skills. We publish blogs four times a week, where writers can communicate their views on any topic of their choice with our readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *