Migrant workers fear starvation. Not coronavirus

Around 10 lakh migrant labourers left for their parent states in April and May. Since the Unlock 1.0 began on June 1, nearly three lakh have returned to work.

 |  2-minute read |   08-07-2020
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Nidhu Das, a migrant labourer had left Chakan, the automobile hub of India near Pune, for his home in Silchar in Assam in April, after his automobile company Lomax stopped functioning after the national lockdown was imposed. He felt his future was uncertain as there was no clarity of how many days the company would be closed, reducing his income. However, he returned in the second week of June to resume work as a turner. He took buses and trains to travel around 3,000 km in four days. “We are poor, don’t have money,” says the energetic 25-year-old. “I’m not scared of the virus but the hunger.”

main_migrant-laboure_070820111018.jpgAround 10 lakh migrant labourers left for their parent states in April and May out of which almost three lakh have returned so far since the unlock 1.0 began on June 1. (Photo: Reuters)

Around 10 lakh migrant labourers left for their parent states in April and May. Almost three lakh have returned so far since the unlock 1.0 began from June 1. The 11 trains coming to Mumbai every day from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand registered 100 per cent occupancy. The unavailability of work and less payment have made the migrants return to Maharashtra. Shyam Thakur, a labourer, used to get Rs 600 per day before he returned to his home in Sagar in Madhya Pradesh in April. “I got to work under the MGNREGS but earned only Rs 200 a day,” he says. He came back with two other friends to resume their work as assemblymen at Chakan, often called Detroit of India, for its 700 automobile manufacturing and assembling companies. It hosts close to four lakh migrant labourers, the highest in Maharashtra. Motilal Sankala, president of Chakan Industries Association, says 20 to 30 per cent of the industry has resumed work as the labourers are returning. “The companies are willing to resume the work with full capacity but they are helpless as not all labourers are getting transport.”

Interestingly, the labourers within Maharashtra are not allowed to travel as there is a ban on inter-district transport. CM Uddhav Thackeray’s plan to give jobs to the locals also seems to be failing as migrant labourers are returning. Rajendra Gore, managing director of Adhiraj Manpower Supply, says the companies are depending on migrants as locals aren’t willing to go for heavy work in lieu of less payment. Raghunath Kuchik, president of Minimum Wages Advisory Board, suggests that a formation of a separate board for labourers on the contract would end their dilemma.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: They're not fleeing the pandemic, they're fleeing us: What Covid says about India's privilege divide

Writer

Kiran Tare Kiran Tare @kirantare

The writer is senior associate editor, India Today.

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