To keep people safe from the coronavirus, social distancing has been implemented in the entire country—as it is the only way to break the chain of the virus transmitting from one person to another (as per the advice of experts and the Indian Council of Medical Research). Thus, after the successful implementation of Janata Curfew on March 22, 2020, our Prime Minister announced a 21-day lockdown in the country.
People who can arrange for their basic needs and purchase one month’s ration have no problem with this lockdown. But what are migrants, working as daily wage labourers, supposed to do? They are able to feed their families with the money they earn that day. They aren’t financially secure and depend on their work.
After the announcement of the lockdown, their income has stopped, and they don’t have any resources or sufficient government support. Due to the lockdown, vegetable prices have also gone up. For them, their biggest fear is hunger and not the virus. They see only one option: returning to their villages and hope they can save themselves from the virus as well as hunger, with the help of a relative, landlord or money lenders.
This has forced them to walk thousands of kilometres on foot. Initially, many migrant workers managed to go back to their respective domicile states, but thousands stayed in cities in hopes of government support. Their respective state governments, as well as civil societies, have tried to provide the basic necessary goods and services.
After over a month, the central government has arranged special trains for all migrants to go back home. But it puts them at risk of contracting the virus—as it’s hard to practice social distancing and self-quarantine in packed spaces.