A nationwide lockdown was imposed on 25th March, 2020 by the Modi government. This was a measure taken to curb the spread of the novel corona virus. However, this sudden imposition had put migrant workers in a desperate condition to go back home amidst the complete lockdown which caused numerous migrant deaths. With no work in hand and no available transportation, migrant workers were forced to travel by foot. This journey caused thousands of deaths during the first two months of the lockdown.
In the most recent Parliament session, a BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab had posed a question with regards to the injuries and deaths of migrant workers. However, Union Labour Minister, Santosh Gangwar responded to it by saying “No such data is available.” Some have said that this was done to protect the identities of families and individuals. However, some have also criticised the government on being unable to gather integral data when government agencies have recently said they have eleven lakh page worth data on Umar Khalid’s anti-national activities.
According to the World Bank report in April, lives of forty million migrants were affected worldwide. A question was also asked in the parliament about monetary compensation that has been paid to affected migrants. The government’s reply to this question was “Question does not arise in view of the previous question.” The Centre has said that the migrant workers were helped through state and government agencies as well as self help groups. A lot of migrant labourers lost their job because most of them were informal without any contracts.
The government had started Special Shramik trains for transport of migrant workers to their hometowns. However, inadequate food and water availability caused numerous illnesses. One heart-breaking image surfaced where a young boy desperately tried to wake up his mother who was lying motionless in the Muzaffarnagar train station. The 35-year old woman had reportedly died of dehydration. More than 110 migrant deaths were reported in train stations.
The Central Information Commission had directed the Chief Labour Commissioner to upload data regarding the migrant crisis. This information was also to be updated from time to time. However, the recent parliament session shows that this directive was paid no heed.