When India first went into lockdown in March last year followed by subsequent extensions, panic and misery of migrant workers who embarked on an arduous journey back home shook the nation. Even though welfare of migrant workers is the duty of respective state governments, several attempts have been made to blame the crisis solely the Central Government.
This time, once again, leaders have refused to take responsibility for the migrant workers in their respective States.
As the second wave of COVID-19 surges, and many states impose local restrictions, painful scenes of migrant workers returning to their hometowns are replaying.
It was only obvious that this time around, one expected respective Chief Ministers to proactively take care of the vulnerable population and also take lessons from the challenges faced during the first wave.
After a year of pandemic, State machinery and respective Chief Ministers can no longer claim that they were caught off guard. These workers should have been reached out to, well in advance and been assured of all the possible support during the curfew period; even more so considering all States have promised the lockdown is for a relatively shorter duration.
Two states in particular which are witnessing severe migrant workers’ crisis are Delhi and Maharashtra. There are some difficult questions that the respective Chief Ministers need to answer.
Sorry State of Delhi
As soon as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced 6-days lockdown, bus terminals in Delhi have witnessed an influx of migrant workers who are desperately trying to return to their hometowns.
Delhi: Migrant workers throng Anand Vihar Bus Terminal after the National Capital goes into 1-week lockdown starting tonight at 10 pm pic.twitter.com/7ZeyMcKSLZ
— ANI (@ANI) April 19, 2021
According to news reports, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has moved to constitute a committee that will look after the migrant workers’ issue. People on social media have pointed out that by the time the CM sits for the meeting, the damage would reach an irreparable stage.
In the first wave and during the lockdown last year, the panic was arguably for the uncertainty that was unfolding and everybody including the Government was finding ways to deal with the evolving situation. But this time as migrant workers again return to their hometowns; it explains how workers have lost faith and trust in the local government and its ability to take care of their well-being.
Maharashtra – Migrant Workers Left to Their Fate
Before Delhi, the state of Maharashtra went into lockdown. Clearly Chief Minister Uddhav Thackery did not take the plight of migrant workers in the city into account before announcing the lockdown. In the absence of any assurances or relief measures, workers naturally thronged to railway stations and bus terminals even before the curfew/lockdown was formally announced in the state.
Thanks to Indian Railways, migrant workers returning from Maharashtra were not left in the cold.
A year in the pandemic, there is no way the states, can pass the buck and relieve themselves from explaining the crisis faced by the migrant workers. The only reprieve for all those workers returning to respective hometowns is perhaps the fact that the Centre has taken special care to implement One Nation One Ration Card.
Read more in our earlier article Amidst the Repeating Horror for Migrant Workers, One Ration Brings Some Respite This Time.