A HUMANITARIAN ISSUE ON MIGRANT WORKERS
Author: R. Regamitha, V year of B.Com.,LL.B.(Hons.) from School of Excellence in Law. Chennai
Expect the unexpected is one of the best quotes about adventurous life. But it took a drastic turn in the year 2020. Contagious diseases are common to everyone around the world. Once every two months, everyone will go down to the hospital for the flu. This pandemic year made everyone know about self-care health. Covid-19 is considered to be a contagious disease in the 21st century which leads to a major lockdown for 3 months and partial lockdown since June. The fear of disease is also known as Nosophobia which is very much built among the people. This Covid-19 lockdown is an immediate announcement to shut down every school, college, and workplace which created multiple hardships on the workers who are dependent on the day income. This research article explains the hardships of the migrant workers, daily wage workers and also suggests some measures to take care of it
Keywords: Covid-19, hardships, lockdown, contagious, health.
Disaster in India is very common where we already faced natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, Tsunami, Strom etc. but the government has conducted many recovery camps and implemented many policies to help the people affected by the disaster. The pandemic is new to India where there is no further reference for the government to take care of a situation of a contagious disease. There was a time where Swine flu was pretty common. But that flu doesn’t create any kind of chaos among the people though the death rate was high. The higher number of populations found it very difficult to survive in this lockdown. Unemployment made many people take their life due to poverty and hunger. India is a place of Unity in diversity where people from every corner work in the other states.
Migrant workers in India
The total number of migrant workers in India internally is 45.36 crores i.e., 37% of the total population through the street vendors, the vulnerable community is not included in this survey. The government provided the funds for Rs.22 billion of the migrant workers. But the main question is whether the funds reached the migrant workers? Migrant workers are easily found in every walk of our life. The unpredicted lockdown in India shattered the lives of the workers to get back to their regional places. The cities which were built by the migrant workers turned their back against them which should help them to get back to their places. Many of them walked hundreds of kilometres to reach their home. As a democratic country, the motto of a country should be for the people. The entire nation is worn out due to the pandemic and the government has been taking care of the people who are coming from another country, quarantining them, sending them back to their place. The people who have been working here so hard to create a better nation by working in the construction, sewage department, and the food industry don't get any kind of help from the government as well.
As a society, we people are responsible for each other. But no one helped the migrant workers to get home. Here some of the migrant workers explain their misery in the lockdown
1. Sanju and Rajan – They both arrived in Mumbai with their two children and built their own life. After earning some money, they bought a tuk-tuk and then the pandemic held them back, so they stayed at home and spent all the left money so they decided to go back to the village in his tuk-tuk. They only have 200 kms left to reach their village but unfortunately, a truck ran through the tuk-tuk and killed Sanju and one of their sons. The government didn’t take care of this family and the family lost their members.
2. Lallu Ram – he was born in a village who came to Mumbai to earn money but the lockdown made him go back to his place. He saw some workers were going to their place by walking so he and his cousin decided to walk. After reaching 400 kms he slept on the road and never woke up due to cardiac arrest. They couldn’t even get the ambulance and waited for 8 hours to take him.
3. Verma – He is one of the Migrant workers who was left jobless due to pandemic. He also stated that the government policy to pay the employee a full month salary is a lie. The employer didn’t pay him the wage and he couldn’t take action against him. He decided to walk back to Delhi with his wife and 4-year-old child for 700kms.
4. Ghansyan lal – A migrant worker, states that “There was nothing to eat at home, the landlord was asking for rent, so I put a lock on my house and had no other option so I started to walk to my place.”
Many workers died en route by hitting vehicles or due to hungriness. A two-year-old girl died after walking millions of kilometres with her parents. The government provided bus and train facilities for a few numbers of workers which didn’t create any change because there are millions of them.
Unemployment is a huge step back for a daily wage worker. The migrant workers left their villages and came to the city to work for the daily wage. Their entire survival depends on the income given by the owner or contractor. This pandemic killed many people not only by the virus but also due to starvation for food. Poverty is not a recently developed concept in India. According to a survey 8 lakhs people die due to starvation in India. Those kinds of situations lead to begging and make them wander the streets. But this situation never allows people to come out of their house and ask for food from other people. The concern towards animals is way more than the concern against other human beings. The government was keen on preventing the spread of the disease but forgot to take care of the starvation in India. the death rate rises more than corona death in India. The policy of the government is not sufficient by providing Rs.1000 in the ration shop where only the people from that area can get essentials and amount from it. The policy lacks objective and execution and the very purpose of making it. The main idea of the Ration shop is the public distribution system but here Rs.1000 is not even giving food for the family for 5 days. The government didn’t make progress on the starvation line.
If a celebrity died or tested positive with the corona virus, the entire nation prays for him, and the government makes sure they make it home safe. But the very little consideration was not even there for the migrant workers who give their hard work to this particular nation and not even expecting good care and more money, only just the essentials to lead a life.
Being human is more important than a human being. Human rights law lies with each and everyone in the country. Everyone regardless of their status, nationality or race, human rights applies to them. The people's movements of human rights state that “the owner has to return the migrant worker if he wishes”. But due to Covid – 19 lockdown, the owner of the migrant workers didn’t give the wage for their work and never helped them to return to their place. The International Convention on the protection of migrant workers and their families also states the same. The workers are asked to pay a higher amount to travel in the truck and lorries which they are never able to afford. The immediate announcement for the pandemic is an appropriate decision at that time. But as a people’s society, they should safeguard every human being to get back to their place or even offer food for them daily. A migrant worker from Delhi also states that “Hunger is more dangerous than the virus.” Without these migrant workers buildings, hotels, roads would have not been possible. The people are putting their own life at risk to create a better environment but the government never took any steps to take care of the migrant workers to get back to their villages. According to the 2011 census, India houses 139 million migrant workers. The significant human rights violation of the migrant workers should be of right to health. The corona outbreak in India led to a major lockdown which safeguards the people who rely on the monthly salary and a roof over their heads but it does not help the people who depend upon the daily wage which leads to rent, food and education to the family. They are described by the human rights law as a vulnerable group of people where they don’t receive any kind of benefits like other workers in India.
The Constitution of India is considered to be the supreme law of India. Due to pandemic provisions entrusted are held to be constitutional. The main example here is Article 267 defines the Contingency fund. It is used to meet our unforeseen expenditures. The contingency fund is meant to be used in such a contingency. The contingency fund act 1950 created this account with the sum of Rs.50 crores. The World Health Organization (WHO) insisted that a Contingency fund for emergencies is created in the outbreak of any diseases and in the time of humanitarian crises. The company's highest budget needs to be dedicated to the contingency fund. A Country with a contingency fund that is entrusted in the constitution needs to be fully prepared for any kind of emergencies. These kinds of funds help to meet major emergencies like natural disasters, medical emergencies. A democracy should act against the interest of the people. Due to this pandemic, many of them died not only from the virus but also due to poverty.
The directive principles of state policy direct the government “to promote the welfare of the people to protect the people from all walks of life.
Article 39 requires that the health and strength of the workers, men and women need to be secured.
Article 39A provides that there is an obligation upon the state to secure the citizens and adequate means of livelihood and the right to work, any person who is deprived of the right to life or livelihood can challenge the deprivation as offending the right to life conferred under article 21
2. In between
The government is In between the crises of the Right to health and right to livelihood and personal liberty. The pandemic has a great hold within the government because even the country with great medical facilities announced lockdown and people died in millions in their place. On the other hand, the right to livelihood of the people is in vain where no state or central government took care of those people to get back to their places.
3. Epidemic diseases act 1897
Section 2 of this epidemic diseases act to direct the state and central to take any kind of special measures to secure the right to health and right to livelihood of the people. This act helped the British people to take care of the plague that happened in 1920.
4. Indian Penal Code
Section 188 of the Indian penal Code states that if an order given by the public servant obstructs or injures which leads to imprisonment, fine or both. The order which has been passed by the government to give salary to the employee though there is no productivity, the owner or the contractor of the migrant workers failed to provide them with the wage and the salary that leads them to return to their places caused the death of the many migrant workers.
Outbreak of migrant workers
1. Porur, Chennai
The outburst of the migrant workers in Porur IT park where they all left without food for three days A migrant worker says that “We are not asking for any money or luxurious life, we are asking for food for us to survive”. The official of that area claimed that they have been provided food but didn’t disclose the quantity of it.
2. Koyambedu, Chennai
A similar outbreak of the koyambedu migrant workers who had not been provided with any food or shelter went to the police station and asked them to arrange to go back to their places.
3. Neemrana, Rajasthan
17 people have been working in the Rajasthan city contracted to work for 5 months, but the contractor refused to pay the dues and didn’t arrange any kind of travel vehicle to return them to their places. After an NGO helped the 17 workers to go back to their places.
4. Palavanjipalayam, Tirupur, Tamilnadu
The contractor refused to help the migrant workers to get back to their place and was locked out of their accommodation. They have been helped by some NGO to reach their villages.
These are reported cases from the NGO and protests by the migrant workers, many of them are still unreported, it is difficult to find whether they are alive or dead.
The rights of the vulnerable society always need to be protected. The livelihood of the workers relies on the wage from the contractor. If a policy of the government is announced, it should be the duty of them to fulfil that policy. The pandemic not only killed so many people with the contagious virus, but it also killed people who are deprived of poverty, hunger and also daily wage. Some of the rights will be dismissed in the time of war but the fundamental rights are never dismissed in any contingency situation. ARTICLE 21, right to means of livelihood needs to protect to every individual