Since ages, the labour class has bore the brunt of any adverse situation. Even in Vedic age, power and money was acclaimed more than physical labour. What many considered a religious issue has proved to be a social conundrum as we still find the pathetic treatment of labour ers existing in 21 st Century. In a world where currently humanity is fighting a war against a disease, physical trauma and mental breakdown, the most neglected strata of our society are fighting a war for survival and basic needs. Due to the looming threat where even a day’s delay could unravel the system, our government was forced into a very unplanned, hasty nationwide lockdown on 25th of March, 2020. As usual, the deprived labour ers, especially migrant labour ers were left helpless.
CURRENT PROBLEMS OF LABOURERS-
1. STRUGGLE OF MIGRANT LABOURERS- Although the lockdown was one hundred per cent necessary, no one can deny that facilities to deal with the crisis were not up to mark. Most migrant workers have homes in villages. Due to sudden lockdown, they got stuck in the cities without food, shelter, or money. According to reports, they were promised shelter and safe transportation. On being denied the necessities, out of helplessness, many migrant workers began their journey home on foot. That lead to not one but many disasters.
On 8th May, 16 migrant workers sleeping on rail tracks on their way back home were killed by an approaching train in Aurangabad UP.
Wednesday, 13th May brought to us another sad news when 6 workers from Haryana on the way to their home in Bihar were crushed by a bus in Delhi- Saharanpur Highway UP.
Eight workers were killed and 50 injured when a truck carrying workers from Maharashtra to UP crashed with a bus near Guna in MP, on Thursday.
While again, over 20 were killed in a collision in Auraiya, UP. Many are injured. The string of deaths has pulled on a sympathetic string in all of us and UP’s CM Yogi has promised monetary donation of 2 lakhs to the family of the deceased.
2) MONETARY CRISIS– Even the ones who could reach home aren’t very lucky as they are going through a major financial crisis. They aren’t privileged enough to have savings and they’re running out of food supplies and other necessities. Although there has been provision of free ration, that isn’t enough. Families of the stranded are in crisis too with the bread earner being far away from home and no work opportunity around.
EXPECTED PROBLEMS AFTER LOCKDOWN-
1) LAYING OFF WORKERS- Most of the aforesaid workers travel to cities for work in factories, mills, as domestic helpers, drivers, gardeners, etc. Due lockdown the economy would suffer a huge blow and there would be an oversupply of workers in cities and factories will probably lay off these workers.
2) FINANCIAL CRISIS- Many of these workers get daily wages and only a few have savings for a home. This, unfortunately, will bring unbelievable trouble to these families who would be forced to take desperate steps for survival. For example, along with parents, kids would be forced to work and leave schooling. Also, the suicide of poor workers is not unheard of.
3) CONSIDERABLE RISE IN EXPLOITATION- Due to the utmost helplessness they could be forced to work at the lowest wages and be exploited by factory owners or employers. Given the oversupply of workers and the economy being down, no wonder everyone would want to cut a bigger slice of profit for themselves and as usual the victim will be helpless workers.
The biggest cause for the suffering of the helpless is the lack of protection for them. Often, they join work with no written policy from the employers and they are taken advantage of their naivety. The exploitation can be detected now, when they are deserting their workers without considering their needs because they aren’t lawfully bound to do so. Although it must not be considered an excuse by any Government, the reality holds that India has over 40 million migrant workers which makes it very difficult to cater to every single one of them. We need stronger laws to protect the deprived. We need necessities provided to them We need the stranded to be transported safely back to their homes. For once, since the beginning of time,
they need to be treated as humans.