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Migrant Labour Crisis In India

COVID-19, a pandemic as declared by WHO is defined as spreading a new disease worldwide. Many of the diseases spreads at a rapid rate in a very short period of time which may be days, weeks or months. India has imposed a national lockdown to cease the spread of disease. The pandemic is anticipating to abolish 6.7 percent working hours throughout the world in second half of year 2020 which is equal to 195 million workers of full time.

Huge decrement can be predicted in Arab states where 8.1 percent workers which are equal to 5 million full time workers, and in Europe it is expected to be 7.8 percent workers which are equal to 12 million full-time workers. In Asia and Pacific this prediction is 7.2 percent workers which is equal to 125 million full-time workers.[1] This may exceeds the effects of earlier crisis of 2008-09.

This decision of imposing lockdown ends up in affecting jobs, manufacturing, construction and the informal migrants labour class who assists in these sectors. This situation should have handled gently.[2] Some sectors which are at huge risk are shelter, food, retail, business and administrative activities. Some of the major problems that has been suffered by migrants labours are mentioned below.

How is lockdown going to affect them?

India is facing one more problem during this pandemic which is Migrant Labour crisis. After the announcement of lockdown which sets off a massive evacuation of migrant labour from the industrial places. Migrants who are deprived of their jobs and livelihoods as well has begun their onerous journey towards their home on either foot or bicycles. Itís been 55 days and still the migrants are on the road somewhere.[3]

Their health and safety are at question. Across the business sectors, from retail to manufacturing are cladding some grave or debilitate labour shortage, it has put another question on India that how supply chain will hold up in country. Workers who have returned home are not showing up for work because of no proper facility of transport and police violence. In ecommerce firms, this has led to labour shortage at the rate of 80-90 percent. Retailers have been hit hard in mandis and other places like these.

Manufacturing units are also cladding some issues of contract or agreement, labour penetrating to get back to their villages. The lockdown has been like a death sentence for the underprivileged are the lines of workers suffering from poverty and inequality during this pandemic.[4]

Psychological issues faced by Migrants during COVID-19

India has lost its soul and moral compass during the pandemic crisis. Migrants are not familiar in their new environment where they are living on a temporary basis. They are susceptible to various psychological, emotional and social anguishes in such situations, running from the fear of being neglected by local community and concerns about well being and their family safety who has been waiting at their native places.[5]

Rights of Migrant labourers amid COVID 19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious threat in the society as all the health systems of affected countries have been collapsed. This is in transgression of the basic right to health to the citizens. Further, the vaccine has not developed yet and a large number of people are dying. The government has had no solution till now except imposing lockdown rules for the citizens and encouraging them for social distancing to curb the spread of disease.

The vulnerable groups in the society are mostly affected due to this pandemic in the society especially migrant labourers. The rights of these migrant labourers are also affecting and there are various cases of gross human rights violations across the world.[6]

Various human rights activists and associations working for the welfare of migrant workers have warned about the impact of the pandemic on the migrant workers as they are more vulnerable, due to lockdown and containment conditions, inadequate facilities, lack of sanitization and limited health care services.[7]

The government and Judiciary failed to protect the rights of the migrant workers amid COVID-19. There are a lot of difficulties facing migrant workers due to the lack of support from the government in the presence of Indian Judiciary. There are certain rights available to migrant workers which are grossly violated during the pandemic because of the lack of policies of the government.

The judiciary must have taken suo moto cognizance of the issue and win over the hearts of the people by taking proactive measures and effective decisions to provide relief majors to the migrant labourers.[8]Human rights of the migrant workers are violated due to the poor administrative system. These rights include the right to proper health mechanisms, safe working conditions, less restrictions on movement from one place to another and other basic amenities of life. But these rights of the migrant workers are grossly violated and the government is not taking enough care of stranded migrant workers.

There are various labour laws which direct the state and central government to provide adequate facilities to the migrant workers at the time of crisis. Social Security and Welfare in society specifically of unorganized workers is taken care by The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008. This Act specifically formulated to provide adequate reliefs and needs of the unorganised sector workers.

This act mandates the state government to provide:

  • life and disability cover
  • health and maternity benefits
  • protection of old age
  • and other benefits provided by the central government
The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and conditions of service) Act, 1979 was formulated to protect the human rights of the migrant workers at the time of crisis. But in the pandemic, the state as well as central government failed to provide adequate relief to the stranded migrant workers and grossly violated their basic human rights enshrined under the Constitution of India. The priority of the government should be that to provide basic health and sanitation facilities to the migrant workers during the pandemic and they should be received back home in a safe and dignified manner.[9]

Threats to Migrant workers amid COVID-19

The lack of administrative support from the Government of different states leads to difficulties for the migrant workers amid COVID-19. The government has a different view to the situation and causes a lot of harshness amongst the life of migrant labourers. Increase in the violence towards the migrant labourers has caused serious trouble for them to reach their homes. There are various cases of police repressions towards them in the cities they work within.[10]

The conditions of migrant workers are miserable during the pandemic as they are unable to reach their homes due to the lack of responsiveness from the authorities. The serious threat to the migrant workers is lack of basic health facilities, lack of sanitization, lack of resources etc. during the pandemic which worsen the situation in the present scenario. Further, due to lack of financial and administrative support they are unable to reach their homes safely. Thus, this creates a serious threat to the present conditions of migrant labourers during the pandemic which should be protected by the government and authorities. [11]

The challenges faced by the migrant workers are miserable as they are surviving in poor living conditions during the pandemic. There is a lot of risk present in their source and destination areas. The contribution made by migrant workers is enormous in building the economy of a nation but in return, they are receiving lack of well-being and social security from the authorities. There is a need for immediate solutions to prevent and protect the rights of migrant workers during the pandemic. The Government should make necessary arrangements to provide a safe journey to reach their homes. The authorities should work for the well-being and social security of migrant workers.

The government must formulate effective policies which cater the needs of migrant workers in the pandemic. The policies of the government can play a vital role in ensuring safe and dignified migration to the workers. There should be decent living conditions provided to the migrant workers in the pandemic. It is the duty of the state to protect the rights of migrant workers during the pandemic and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the Constitution of India.

  1. (01-05-2020, 09:24 AM)
  2. (27-04- 2020, 06:41 PM )
  3. (20-05-2020, 06:04 PM)
  4. (09-05-2020 , 07:17 PM)
  6. (21-05-2020, 05:23 PM).
  7. (22-05-2020, 04:07 PM).
  8. (22-05-2020, 6:08 PM).
  9. (23-05-2020, 07:45 PM).
  10. (24-05-2020, 04:54 PM).
  11. (24-05-2020, 08:34 PM).
Award Winning Article is Written By:†Ms.Shraddha Sharma

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