The unheard victims of COVID-19

08 May 2020 | Posted by Himanshu Dixit

The situation arising out of and the challenge faced by the Country in the past one month on account of Covid-19 virus and the resultant difficulties that the migrant workers were facing throughout the Country, was very deplorable. A month ago, a massive exodus of migrant workers from cities to their villages was seen in news, as they had been left in dire straits without access to basic necessities amid the coronavirus lockdown. But apart from this, there was another issue that had risen simultaneously, but was not discussed much at the fore.

As per the reported data, at least 38 migrants have died while trying to get home, many by crossing the borders, during the lockdown. Since, due to the declaration of Lockdown, many industrial and private establishments were asked to shut their operations immediately. As a result of which, a vast number of workers and labourers, were suddenly left without any means of sustenance and shelter in large cities, and hence, were compelled to return back to their respective homes. Furthermore, in the initial days of passing the lockdown orders, the operation of transportation, restaurants/Dhabas were also asked to be ceased, thereby, resulting in many of the migrants anguishing in the middle of the roads/Highways. These migrant workers along with their family members were almost dying of walking hundreds of kilometres before getting killed by corona disease. As many as 38 migrants, while returning back to their homes, have died on road during the lockdown either because of road accidents that they had met with or because of their health deterioration. To give a preliminary image of such sufferings of migrants, a list of few reported incidents are attached herewith:-

Incident 1:- One migrant worker, a 39-year-old man and a father of three who set off on foot from Delhi to Agra, collapsed on Delhi-Agra Highway and later died due to exhaustion of the long walk of around 200 km. Since the government had stopped public transport services - buses and trains - his only option appeared to be to travel the 300 km by foot.

Incident 2:- A 62-year-old man died in Surat in Gujarat on Friday after walking from a hospital to his house for around 8 km as he could not find any means of transport.

Incident 3:- Four migrants, who worked at a tea stall and canteens in Mumbai and who were turned back by the police from Bhillad town on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border and were walking back to Vasai, after lockdown, were killed when a truck ran over them in Virar early on Saturday.

Incident 4:- A road accident has killed eight migrant persons, including an 18-month-old toddler, on the outskirts of Hyderabad. The group, which comprised labourers, was returning to Raichur in Karnataka.

Incident 5:- In the state of Tamil Nadu, four people, including a one-year-old baby, died in a forest fire at Rasingapuram in Theni district of Tamil Nadu on Tuesday night while taking the forest route instead of the main road which had been blocked off because of the lockdown.

Incident 6:- In the state of Haryana, five persons, including a one-year-old boy, died while at least 10 others were injured after a mini-truck allegedly rammed two auto-rickshaws and hit several migrant daily wagers, near the toll plaza on Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway near Panchgaon Flyover.

Incident 7:- At least sixteen migrant labourers run over by freight train in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district early in the morning

Today, in uncertain times such as these, the faith and belief of the citizens lies with the administration and it is rather saddening to see that the government itself has yet not been able to look at the plight of the family members of these deceased migrants who have died on roads. Therefore, the central government should take into cognizance of the above mentioned issues and take appropriate actions or may also direct respective state governments:-

  1. To formulate a uniform compensatory policy for the family members of those deceased migrants who have been directly or indirectly impacted by Lockdown orders implemented in pursuant to control the Covid-19 disaster.
  2. To provide families of the deceased migrant workers an adequate Ex-gratia financial relief due to the loss suffered by them incidentally after the imposition of Lockdown.

To declare the migrant workers as ‘stranded persons’, a status which though, was given to migrant workers earlier, but later was called off by MHA.