COVID 19 AND THE MIGRANT WORKERS IN INDIA

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By Maham Abbasi, TIO:  The COVID-19 pandemic has put our entire world to a halt, with us not even knowing when our normalcy will return. However, with most of us being in the comforts of our homes, what is haunting and devastating to realize is the fact that more than half of the population of our country is stuck in distant lands, far away from what we all call ‘a home’.

What is home? Is it where we are displaced as nomads to earn a living or is it where our ‘family’ is? The need to become an economic unit, to earn a livelihood, to be able to support our families has never felt as tiring and helpless as now in the times of a pandemic that no one ever thought was coming our way. The ones being referred to as helpless here are the migrant workers displaced far away from their families. 

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Usually in India, many middle-class families dream through their entire lives to send someone from them to a place where work is better with some amount of money to keep them all sustained is earned, with a lot of hard work and casualties’ unlike the upper or must I say, the privileged class, whose dream usually highlights to send their children abroad to an A-class college and a degree that upholds the dignity and respect that they want to brag about the rest of their lives.

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Migrant workers, risking their families Boarding the Truck to return to their villages

Consider the former class, walking miles and miles just to be safe in their home with their families waiting for them, persuading the workers to carry heavy bundles of luggage on their heads, even their young ones on foot, to be able to reach back safe to their villages. They also moved to the cities, dreaming and aiming to give a better life to themselves and their loved ones and all we have for them is pity and disdain. But why do we pity them? How are they different from any of us? How are their dreams different? The everyday dilemma of choosing to live in a city to be financially independent or to be able to earn little but live with our families are the real struggles.

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The migrant workers have given up the warmth of love, a sense of security, and the pleasure of being able to live in their homes only to face the economic reality of earning an income. The fact that there is a major class disparity in this country even in the most advanced era, as of today, we host one class in five-star hotels and let the other walk miles without food or water, dignity or support, because we have failed to account how lesser ones could get home even when they are already burdened by the cruel truth of losing their livelihood. So what will these migrant laborers do in large cities that are alienating them? They cannot make the new city their home.

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The city is paying them for labor and had consistent work to offer until now when this can also, be a zero case. Then there is no place to stay, everything is expensive as the cost of living is high. Millions of migrant workers were living in abominable conditions that are nerve-wracking, contributing to the entire economic growth, but can still not call it home, proved by the fact that they have to pick up their bundles and leave when a pandemic strikes. They have no place to stay, media might still not focus on them or be deeply concerned about their living conditions but nothing changes the truth that thousands of workers are living in under constructed buildings in Delhi, millions all across the globe sharing the same daunting conditions, with absolutely no food to eat today or tomorrow.

Donations, relief camps are helping them have a sigh but till what extend? is it enough? 

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Scary as it sounds the answer is no. When the entire world, people from different industries, a lawyer and a businessman have no answers to how their lives will turn in a couple of weeks, how can these workers be sure of what is more to come. Let’s think about the migrant worker, who cannot afford to bring his wife and children to the city or has not seen his family for months, the grief is only going to extend sadly. This situation has to evoke our collective consciousness. These are the people we have abandoned for long. These migrant workers work day and night with their back and bones to help run the economy, the communities, and most importantly us, the privileged ones to be able to run an easy and normal life with education enough to support us.

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This is our time to pay back. The government should try their best for these workers to reach back their homes because as absurd as it sounds in a situation shouting a never-ending communicable disease, this is the only sense of satisfaction one can have. If not for these thousands of faceless workers we could have not survived, we could have not lived a normal happy life. Throughout decades we have turned into a mindless society that grabs and takes and not gives and protects, our entitlement has gotten us here where we don’t see hunger and sadness because we never faced it.

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We are all humans and there is no difference between the rich and the migrant workers, not today. The former has held the community by its grip, can voice opinions, and be powerful whereas the latter remains on the fringe, helpless and alone. We Indian’s shall all come together and fight it as humanity should, by not merely donating or cashing the problem out to feed the misplaced. We all have to find a way, integrate these people into places that they chose to live in for a better life, places they now know as home or at least have to stick to until they finally go home and we have to collectively be a part of this process so that no one has to pick up and leave ever again.

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Edited By Adam Rizvi, Compiled By Alizah R

 

Maham Abbasi

Maham Abbasi is a graduate of, The University of Delhi, (Jesus and Mary College) currently pursuing  Masters in Women’s Studies from, The Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, working and writing extensively for women’s rights and issues.

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