Over one crore migrant workers returned home between March-June: Government
Months after grim images of migrant workers walking on foot for days shook the nation, the government revealed that over one crore laborers had returned to their home states between March and June. Notably, the coronavirus lockdown was enforced on March 25 and continues to be eased in a phased manner. The government also revealed that over 80,000 road accidents occurred during the period.
COVID-19 resulted in migration of large number of workers: Minister
In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways VK Singh said, "COVID-19 has resulted in the migration of a large number of workers from destination states to the home-states." Citing data from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Singh said that over 1.06 crore migrant workers returned to their home states between March-June.
81,385 road accidents occurred; no separate data for migrant workers
The figure of 1.06 crore includes workers who walked hundreds of kilometers on foot to reach their home states, with the coronavirus lockdown leaving them unemployed and penniless. Further, 81,385 accidents occurred on roads (including national highways) during the period, resulting in 29,415 fatalities, Singh revealed. The Centre doesn't have separate data on migrant workers who died in accidents during the lockdown, he added.
Lockdown impacted jobs across sectors; the poorest hardest-hit
The nationwide coronavirus lockdown was announced on the evening of March 24, roughly four hours before it was to come into force. Normal life was thrown out of gear, impacting several industries. Sectors where working remotely was not possible—such as construction, food and hospitality—were the most affected. The surprise lockdown left daily wage laborers jobless, leaving them to fend for themselves.
Amid travel shut down, laborers walked home
Penniless, the laborers either decided to return to their home states or were forced to do so after being evicted from their rented accommodations. Amid a travel shut down, lakhs of laborers across India moved on foot, covering hundreds of kilometers in the blistering summer. Many lost their lives, due to starvation, excessive physical exertion, dehydration, accidents, etc.
Centre had advised states/UTs to make provisions: Singh
On Tuesday, Singh said the Home Ministry had issued regular advisories to states/union territories to make provisions for food, shelter, etc., for the migrants. He said the Ministry had assisted the workers walking along highways by providing them with basic necessities. The Ministry's orders—dated April 29 and May 1—had allowed the movement of workers to their native places via buses and special trains.