Eminent citizens write to President of India to restore dignity of migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic

They have also asked that monitoring committees be formed to oversee the facilities and shelters provided to migrants during the lockdown

Covid 19Image Courtesy:deccanherald.com

Amid the Covid-19 crisis, the treatment of migrants and the ignorance towards their safety has truly shown the ineffectiveness of policy decisions of the government. Not thinking about how the lockdown would affect at least the 6 to 7 crore migrant workers in the country, the lockdown robbed them of their income, chance and sustenance and even their dignity.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and members of the civil society have become a pillar of support for these migrants during this trying time when they are cramped together in shelters and not given enough facilities for basic hygiene and sanitation.

In the wake of this, eminent citizens of the country like Ram Puniyani – Chair, Center for Study of Society and Secularism (Mumbai); Teesta Setalvad – Journalist, civil rights activist and educationist; GG Parikh – veteran freedom fighter, Dilip Kumar Hota – activist, Shramik Mukti Dal, Pune; Bikash Paul – Political Activist, Ritu Dewan – VP, Indian Society of Labour Economics and Sukla Sen – Peace Activist, among others have penned a letter to Ram Nath Kovid, the President of India to bring to light the desperate plight of the migrant workers in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown and the dire need for immediate remedial intervention.

The signatories write that they have come to learn via reports by various media outlets, and other sources, that hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have, in the wake of the sudden enforcing of the nationwide lockdown, been desperately trying to return to their homes from their places of work and too many are stuck up in different states of India in extremely miserable conditions, without food and shelter.

Reports of deaths of migrants due to hunger, exhaustion, the cold and road accidents have also appeared on various news media.

The signatories therefore demand that the workers be treated with dignity and be provided with food and adequate shelter wherever they are because though the government reports that arrangements for their security have already mean made, reports from the ground allegedly show large gaps in these facilities, despite various grassroots and civil society organisations coming forward and playing even larger roles than the official machineries in a number of states.

The letter to the President reads, “Under the given circumstances, we recognise that it is the obligation of the respective state governments, duly backed up by the Central government, to provide for food, water, soap, medicine etc. and adequate shelters with toilet facilities – where the norms of physical distancing can be realistically followed, for the stuck up migrant workers.”

The signatories have also demanded that the government immediately set up monitoring committees, comprised of both official members and members from the civil society organizations to ensure that the migrant workers are well looked after during this crisis.

They demand that various government and private buildings be used as temporary shelters and that families of workers left behind in their homes must also be taken care of well, a task to be overseen by the monitoring committees.

Migrant workers who have managed to reach home to their native villages must also be traced and help must be provided to them and their families, the signatories say, and such activity must be fervently continued till normalcy is restored.

Requesting the Central and State governments to look into the matter at the earliest, in conclusion the signatories say, “This is required just not to save the lives of these toiling people, who used to meaningfully contribute to the running of the national economy till the very other day, but also to ensure success in halting or, at least, significantly slow down the constantly accelerating spread of the dreaded disease so that the healthcare infrastructure in place does not get overwhelmed and, thereby, a huge catastrophe is averted.”

The entire letter by the collective of citizens may be read below.


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