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Migrants from Jharkand, who were stranded in Raigad district of Maharashtra, walk along a road towards their native place during the ongoing nationwide covid-19 lockdown, in Navi Mumbai. (Photo: PTI)
Migrants from Jharkand, who were stranded in Raigad district of Maharashtra, walk along a road towards their native place during the ongoing nationwide covid-19 lockdown, in Navi Mumbai. (Photo: PTI)

How coronavirus turned into humanitarian crisis for migrant workers

  • The NHRC has sought explanation from respective state authorities in most inhumane cases pertaining to starvation and death of migrant workers. Complaints ranged from making migrants devoid of social schemes to their deaths on roads

NEW DELHI : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded over 2582 cases of human rights violation in the month of April, when the country was under a strict lockdown, indicating rampant violation of human rights which left millions of migrant labourers in the lurch.

The commission has sought explanation from respective state authorities in most inhumane cases pertaining to starvation and death of migrant workers. Complaints ranged from making migrants devoid of social schemes to their deaths on roads.

“… the Commission has received a number of complaints pertaining to issues concerning stranded migrant labourers. Depending on the nature of the allegations in these complaints, the Commission issued notices to the concerned authorities calling for reports within the specified time," Jaimini Kumar Srivastava, Deputy Director (Media and Communication) and spokesperson, NHRC told Mint adding that the focal point of the Commission also contacted the concerned authorities for immediate redressal,

The NHRC spokesperson told Mint that it is working on a complaint to protect the fundamental rights of the migrant workers wherein various organizations have expelled them due to shut down of industries as the Centre and states announced lockdown without any prior preparation for this section of society.

“Without work, food or shelter most of the migrant worker/labour, weaker and depressed section of our society with their families have headed toward their native place on foot, hence they were dying of starvation…" the complaint said and mentioned the migrants being killed in road accidents.

Blaming it on the Centre and state governments, the commission said that “continuing sufferings of the people, particularly the migrant labourers, whose journey long, is not coming to a halt."

“Miseries of people have come to its notice during the lockdown forcing it to intervene in order to sensitize the Central and the State authorities to deal with the situation with an approach of respect to human rights of the public at large, particularly the vulnerable sections of the society," the NHRC said.

“It is disheartening to know the plight of the migrant labourers, particularly women, children, old age people and the pregnant women falling prey to states' apathy," the commission added.

With the country facing the socioeconomic crisis of all times, migrant labourers held fight to survive over human rights to life and dignity.

Many migrant workers, either stranded or stuck in government shelter homes while attempting to reach their native places are facing violation of their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to life with dignity and India must respond to human rights violations being faced by these workers, said Maitreyi Gupta, India International Legal Advisor at International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a global human rights non-governmental organization.

According to a Stranded Workers Action Network’s report, published on 15 April, 2020, which surveyed more than 11,000 migrant workers, revealed that 50% of the respondents no rations left even for a single day; while 96% had not received rations, 70% had not received cooked food from the government; 78% or the respondents had less than 400 left.

Besides lack of food and basic amenities, the migrants are now at the risk of contracting the coronavirus and taking it to the areas they are moving. “Lockdown in India has impacted approximately 40 million migrants. Loss of employment, fear of unknown and lack of social support were major reasons for unrest in this huge segment of population. The migrants are now being transported back but states are reporting covid cases among migrants from Mumbai, Ahmdabad, Delhi and other metros," said Dr Suneela Garg, Director at Community Medicine Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi University.

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