Migrant Labourers chaos amidst pandemic.

 The author of this blog Ayushi Dwivedi student of FIMT, GGS-IP University and Sub-editor in Droit Penale Newsletter.

Immigrant workers are the backbone of many economies in Asia and the Middle East and are a source of income for repatriated families. But the pestilence has hit these workers, causing them to lose some jobs or face salary cuts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the corona virus-lock down has been extended to May 3, with large numbers of migrant workers earning daily wages demanding transportation from Mumbai to their respective states. Daily wage workers have been unemployed since the lock down was announced late last month to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and now their lives have become a constant struggle.

 Why this chaos started?
It is not common for a state's top bureaucrat to dial his / her counterpart from other states seeking help to ensure the supply of migrant seasonal workers. All of this happened when there was a nationwide lockdown. Their contribution to the two key sectors of the economy is agriculture and construction. Of these, construction may wait but agriculture cannot. There is no exact information but it is estimated that there are about 4 crore seasonal migrant workers in India.They help agriculture in Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Maharashtra and elsewhere. The main source of this workforce comes from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, as well as parts of Madhya Pradesh.

The national lockdown due to Covid-19 came at the middle of the rabi harvest season. Lockdown has shut down the[i] construction work everywhere. A large number of these workers remain in the construction site and earn daily wages. At this time, they go to farms to harvest crops during the Rabi and Kharif seasons.In large agricultural states it is the time to harvest rabi crops such as wheat, mustard and pulses. The lockdown has seen the unexpected influx of workers from many parts of the country. All of them are moving to their home states, commonly called Poorwanchal, which is a never ending poverty.

Newspapers have pointed out that Punjab, Haryana and Telangana have been most affected by the migration of migrant labourers during the rabi season. These states rely heavily on the migrant workforce to harvest, load and unload their products for transportation. These pictures of poor were strewn on TV channels, they fled the grounds, but a new wave of migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh did not make it into the realms of the major agricultural states. They cannot board trains for their field destination. Telangana had earlier estimated 1.05 crore tonnes of rice and 14.40 lakh tonnes of maize bumper crop. The same is true of the rest of the country.

The Union Agriculture Ministry's pre-covid-19 estimates indicate that India will set another record for high food grain production at around 292 million tonnes in 2019-20.[ii] Wheat, the main rabi crop, is estimated to be 106 million tonnes. Harvesting has already begun in parts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. As Punjab and Haryana stare at the dire situation arising from the Covid-19 lockdown, some workers and crop machinery have been caught in these states.

What made the labourers to struggle amid pandemic?
India's supply chain is also heavily dependent on migrant workers. It is interrupted by coronavirus lockdown. The mercenaries are also earning and therefore there is a loss in jobs.The bank had no savings during the extended lockdown, with most of them reporting news of a two-month lockdown in China and the spread of the rest of the world.The escape of migrant labourers and their unavailability in the fields of rabi crops somehow made India realize that these non-poverty faces are important to their survival.Although authorities and NGOs have made arrangements for their food, but most of them want to return to their own places.

Problems faced by labourers while rescue towards their homeland:
Thousands of labourers had rescued from Delhi initially towards their homes that are miles away from them. The scarcity of food and shelter made them took this step to reach their homes barefooted without any assistance of transport. This lockdown has taken away their sources to live life peacefully. Many of the labourers had went through number of accidents while traveling along their way.As the nationwide lockdown progressed, so did their supply. Like millions of other unofficial, migrant laborers across the country, they are trapped in the city they work in, and have been out of work or wages for weeks now. They were all out resources now.

What caused Mumbai police to start a lathi-charge?
1,000 people with daily wages gathered at the suburban Bandra (West) bus depot near the railway station and squatted on the road.There was heavy police deployment at the site to resolve any undesirable incidents. Staff from other police stations were called to the spot.Initially, the police sought to persuade local community leaders to leave the area, but refused to distribute the labor, so the police resorted to lathicharge.

Equivalent view of Mumbra:
After Bandra, similar scenes were seen in Mumbra, a suburb of Thane district. Many migrant labourers gathered in Mumbra. They demanded that they be allowed to return to their hometowns.Many told police they wanted to go for a walk home. The police tried to calm the situation, but later had to use a lathicharge to disperse the crowd. People have complained that their money is over and they don't even have money for food.

Amid the chaos, the political finger began to point:
The political blame game, meanwhile, is already underway on the situation. While BJP Maha Vikas attacked the Aghadi government for abuse and lack of assistance for the poor, the Shiv Sena and Congress said the Centre had no plans to create the situation.
BJP Maharashtra leader Kirit Somai urged the Maharashtra government to understand the seriousness of the situation. Thousands of people moving outside Bandra East Station (Sikh) are a matter of concern. The Government of Maharashtra should improve the distribution of food grains and rations to the people.[iii]

Judiciary on Migrants labourers chaos:
Stranded migrant workers who were forcibly placed in quarantine camps and tested negative for COVID-19 should be allowed back to their hometowns. In a petition to the Supreme Court, officials said that the authorities should not stop them from visiting their loved ones.The petition was filed jointly by Jagdeep S. Chokar, a former faculty member of the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), and Delhi-based lawyer Gaurav Jain. The continued abstinence of migrant workers during the lockdown, which was extended until May 3, was an "unreasonable limitation" on their fundamental rights to equality and dignity.
The petition states that migrant workers are among those most affected by the lockdown. They are kept away from their families, and, perhaps, the source of shelter and livelihood in their villages. The lockdown caused more suffering than the average earning citizen surrounded by their homes. Disappointment among workers over their conditions has led to recent protests. The first phase of the lockdown showed a clear desire to leave the cities to their villages, crowded and chaos at various terminals shortly after the announcement on March 23.[iv]

It can be concluded by saying that now the steps have been taken. The Government of India have arranged all the required procedure of getting down the people to their homes even from the outside of the country. All the State governments have been instructed to spread the procedure of how to get enrolled in the travellers list and the other requirements to get fulfilled with preventive measures during travel. More than 10,000 trains will be accessible for the journey as announced by the Railways.

[i] Facts available at https://www.thehindu.com
[ii] Facts available at https://www.ricemedia.com
[iv] Facts available at https://www.livelaw.com