Labour Day 2020: How coronavirus lockdown left migrant workers in distress

Updated: May 01, 2020, 17:14 | Sherlin Rajan
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    May 1 is celebrated as International Workers' Day every year. The day is observed to celebrate the rights of the working class and the labourers. To mark the occasion, government offices and institutions are closed on this day. 

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    Howevr, with the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown imposed in the country scores of migrant labourers were left stranded in different parts of the country. 

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    Many migrant workers were left without work, food or shelter. Scores of labourers travelled to their homes states on foot due to lack of transportation that led to deaths because of exhaustion and starvation.

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    Labourers in a desperate bid to reach to the homes also tried to smuggle themselves in trucks that went to their home states but they were caught by the police.

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    In order to curb their exodus amid the lockdown, state governments made arrangements to shelter the workers and help stranded labourers go to their respective states.

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    Local bodies also opened the doors of their schools and other institutions to give shelter and food to the labourers till the lockdown period ends.

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    On April 15, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the lockdown period till May 3, more than a thousand people gathered at the Bandra Railway Station demanding that they be allowed to go back to their homes in other parts of the country. 

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    Most migrant workers said that they were living in cramped conditions in their rooms and wanted to return home. Some of them even claimed that they had not received food packets for several days. 

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    The state governments announced that the stranded workers would be given a sum of money in their accounts through direct benefit transfer as one-time financial assistance to help them meet basic needs of daily life.

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    While some states in the country agreed to make arrangements for the bring the migrant labourers home, some refused.

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    The state governments were also counselling anxious migrant labourers who has been affected by distress and fear in the shelters.

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    On April 29, the Union Home Ministry allowed migrant workers, tourists, students and other people, who are stranded in different parts of the country to move to their respective destinations with certain conditions.

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    Listing the conditions, the ministry said all states and union territories should designate nodal authorities and develop standard protocols for receiving and sending such stranded persons. The nodal authorities shall also register the stranded persons within their states and union territories, it said.

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    The guidelines also stated that, in case a group of stranded persons wish to move between one state and union territory and another state and union territory, the sending and receiving states may consult each other and mutually agree to the movement by road.

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    On arrival at their destination, the travellers would be assessed by the local health authorities, and kept in home quarantine, unless the assessment requires keeping the persons in institutional quarantine, the order said.

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About The Gallery

International Workers' Day or May Day is celebrated on May 1 every year. The day is observed to celebrate the contributions and the rights of the working class and the labourers. With the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown imposed, scores of migrant labourers were left stranded without food and shelter for weeks before the Centre and the state governments intervened. Here's a lookback at the migrant workers' crisis and the efforts take by the government to provide relief to them.

Pictures/Rajesh Gupta, Pradeep Dhivar, Suresh Karkera, Sayyed Sammer Abedi and Satej Shinde (mid-day photographers), PTI, AFP.