The manner in which the migrant workers have been dispossessed from their livelihoods, their homes, their wealth and their survival rights is nothing but a social crime that has been committed by both the government as well as the society. To start the saga, the pandemic was an imported disease that was brought to the country by the privileged, upper and middle classes who had the finance and means to travel abroad. Despite this, the real price had to be paid by the poor working class. There has been a consistent lack of empathy by the soot and grime of the society converting the poor to poorer which should have to be protected by incentivising the most dis-incentivised section. The overnight imposition of the lockdown, which was probably the harshest and the largest (in installments) threw millions of migrant workers across the country into a state of existential crisis losing their jobs feeling a blow of struggle even for basic food and shelter. Additionally, they were thought to be the potential carrier of the disease.
For the privileged upper and middle class, the biggest challenge during the lockdown was the challenge of working from home. Additionally, they had to deal with the challenge of boredom and depression. The challenge was about the dilemma of the next meal to be cooked and the next movie to be watched. The challenge was about what to post on social media and which viral trend to follow. The upper and the middle classes had a secure roof over their heads with assured meals and secured salaries. On the contrary, for the poor working class, it was a question of basic survival. The social strata had been divided in such a way that one part worked from home and the other part neither had work nor a home to survive.
Finally, when the governments started arranging for their transportation back home, they were merely treated as factors of production in the industry and the state governments and the industries wanted that the migrant workers should stay back and help revive the industrial activities. This has been well exemplified by the Karnataka government’s cancellation of buses and trains so that the migrants could stay back. This might be an attempt of the industry to return to the system of laissez-faire.
Here, the tragic part is they are looked upon with an eye of suspicion by the society as well. Let us stop such treatment towards them. Let us not stereotype them. Let us leave the habit of cat-calling them. We should replace few words if possible so that they gain empathy from us. Like, if someone is COVID-19 positive, we can say corona acquired instead of corona infected. At the end of the day, we are living in testing times. The COVID-19 has taken inequalities to a next level dividing the society into haves and have not’s, where further stratification of the migrant workers might turn them into a condition of un-repairable emotional breakdown. Let us recall and inculcate the famous words of John Holmes, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up”.
Author Er. Musahidul Ahmed, Click on his name to visit his profile.