15 Sep 2020
No data on migrants' death, hence no compensation: Modi government
Written byShalini OjhaIndia
Turning a blind eye to the heart-wrenching crisis, which sparked after Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a lockdown to battle coronavirus in March, the Labor Ministry on Monday told the Parliament it had no data on migrants who lost their lives, while on their way home.
Since there was no data, financial compensation to the bereaved families was unlikely, said the Centre.
On Day 1 of Monsoon Session, Centre inundated with questions
The Centre's rather indifferent remarks came on the first day of the Monsoon Session. During the proceedings, the Labor Ministry was asked if it had a count of how many workers returned home.
Union Labor Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar admitted that one crore migrants moved from bigger cities to their homes.
However, he denied possessing information about the deaths of workers.
No data, so no compensation, announced Labor Ministry
Gangwar, in a written reply, submitted, "No such data is maintained. The question does not arise in view of the above." This response came after he was asked whether financial assistance was given to families who lost their loved ones.
The government is also unaware of job losses among migrants
Ironically, the Ministry didn't keep a tab on job losses of migrant workers, either.
But, in an obvious bid to dissuade the criticism that came its way over the handling of the crisis, the Centre reminded that it took steps to help the migrants.
"The government has taken numerous measures to provide them financial assistance, food packages, ration, and other benefits," the Ministry added.
The Centre "seemed satisfied" with its response to the crisis
When asked if the government failed in assessing the problems faced by laborers, the Centre, in a self-patting way, said it did a good job.
"The Central government responded through state governments, local bodies, self-help groups, Resident Welfare Associations, medical health professionals, sanitation workers to tackle the 'unprecedented human crisis'," the Ministry added.
The Centre also reminded that over 4,611 Shramik Special trains were run to ferry the migrants.
PM Modi's lockdown announcement wreaked havoc for migrants
It is imperative to mention though, when the nationwide lockdown was announced by PM Modi on March 24, migrants suffered the most.
Left jobless, they were forced to walk thousands of kilometers toward their homes, as all modes of transportation were suspended.
On the way, some died due to heat, some lost their lives to road accidents, and some were crushed by a train.
Weeks after lockdown, government started special trains for migrants
Finally waking up to the disaster playing out on Indian highways, the government started Shramik Special Trains from May.
Unfortunately, for scores of them, even the trains offered little respite. Nearly 80 migrants died on Railway's premises, mostly due to heat or lack of food/water.
After their poignant situation surfaced, the Supreme Court asked Railways to ensure migrants get food/water on trains.
Poor migrants were also slapped with cases, SC stepped in
Shockingly, the ordeal didn't end with risky journeys as some migrants were also slapped with cases for defying the lockdown.
It was the SC that asked the government in June to take a compassionate approach and drop cases under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
As evident, the Centre did falter in managing the crisis. And the reply regarding deaths further shows its apathy.