Home TRENDING Shunned not Stranded: The Plight of India’s Migrant Workers

Shunned not Stranded: The Plight of India’s Migrant Workers

Migrant workers representative image (Pic credits The Lede)
(Kuradi Chandrasekhara Kalkura)
Almost all those seriously engaged in the prevention, cure, and eradication of the Coronavirus, COVID – 19, are unanimous that the future will have to learn to live with it.
This is an honest opinion. I do not know whether anybody, individually or collectively wrote or attempted to write THE History of Diseases of Mankind. It cannot be done with the ordinary knowledge of one individual. It requires the encyclopedic knowledge of a multifaceted personality or the collective intelligence of an Anthropologist, Doctors of various systems of Medicine, a Historian, an Archaeologist, Linguistic scholars, Sociologist, Economists, etc. The purpose of this article is not to elaborate on this aspect. Many centuries-old diseases are not dead. In spite of the best efforts, they could not be eradicated. e.g. Malaria, Typhoid, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Smallpox, Plague, Cholera, Cancer, Diabetic, Hypertension, and the latest entries like HIV, SARS, Dengue, Brain Fever, etc. Most of them are contained. In this context, the Coronavirus, COVID-19 joins the group. It is certain that there will not be a permanent solution to COVID-19 in the near future.
There cannot be an indefinite lockdown. It hampers the normal life of the lower middle class the most. Hardly 20% of the people in the country are in the organized sector: jobs in govt and autonomous corporations, continuous process industries, rich landlords, businessmen, etc.
The remaining 80% is almost on the streets. Governments are providing them essentials for their sustenance. Reliable sources report that the supply is not comprehensive and does not cover all the marginalized classes. Public Distribution System has come in for severe criticism. In fairness it is impossible to take care of the welfare of about one hundred crores of people; i.e. 80% of the total population of 130 crores. Rs.100/- per day is the minimum required for survival. The expenses the Governments may have to meet per day is Rs,10,000/- crores. Will it be possible? There are many professionals without the BPL tag; viz, Cooks, Purohits, Archakas, Autorikshawalas, Street vendors. Unless they labor, they cannot sustain themselves. (రెక్కాడితేనే డొక్కాడుతుంది!). It is a chain. One is dependent on the other.
All the economic activities, including those dependent on religious activities, are suspended. During the last few days in the third week of May 2020, the Govt has distributed one-time assistance of Rs.5,000/- to the Archakas, Moulvis, and Pastors., totaling about 50,000 persons.
In the sideline, the wine and meat shops are permitted to open, during the restricted hours, but a blanket ban on the places of worship and restaurants. At least ten percent of the population exclusively depend on catering establishments for their food and beverages.
Chaithra, Vaisakha and Jyeshtha, (Corresponding roughly to April, May, and June ) are the peak season for the marriages and house warming ceremonies. Usually, about 40% of the Muhurthams (Auspicious occasions) are celebrated during these three months. Further good attendance and the grandeur is witnessed during this period. Reasons are obvious: Holidays for the academic institutions. Devotees overflow in the Pilgrim centres. As such the above-mentioned professionals like the cooks, Purohits, Archakas are fully engaged during these three months. Whatever they earn during the remaining nine months is for their sustenance.
These three months’ earnings for the long term investment like the marriage, children’s education, construction of a house, payment of Bank EMI, etc. It looks as though those dead during this period are cursed. Children and the close relatives staying far away, even in the neighboring Districts are denied the last glimpse of their dear departed ones. Obsequies are performed with very limited single-digit blood relations.
Even the children living, leave alone staying in foreign countries, even in the far off places within the country, are also unable to participate in the rituals. Of course, it is a saving for the family. But a spiritual upset. And so much of economic activities are shelved. The chain reaction is imaginable. It is worth noting here that there are about 20,000 temples under the Department of Endowment and more than five thousand private temples in AP. Out of them, priests of hardly thousand temples have taxable income.
More than half of them lead below the poverty line (BPL) life. Another point needs clarification here. All Archakas are not Brahmins. Archakas of almost all the Village deities are Non-Brahmans. There are Non-Brahmin cooks and catering staff also. Usually, the students of the Govt and aided Colleges join the Catering groups during the vacations and earn their yearly Tuition fees.
Construction and the migrant workers are the worst hit. Migrant workers may not be possessing identity cards to get assistance. They are being transported to their native places. Their woe and arduous journey is unbearable to hear. All other classes may recover in some months or a few years. But the life of the crores of migrant workers is hanging on fire. Their approximate number is estimated at 13 crores: i.e. 10% of the total population. They are rejected in their places of birth and not accepted in the places of migration. They are like use and throw material. It is a historical truth that all through the recorded history migrant workers have played a key role in the development of all the civilizations.
Seven Wonders of the World were built by migrant workers. Architectural Marvels are their sweat and toil. Their working and living Conditions by itself is another pathetic story. They spend their whole life in thatched sheds and leaky huts.
Kuradi Chandrasekhara Kalkura
Even now it is the cheap African and Latin American labor that thrives the USA: cheap Indian and Chinese skilled labor in the form of Software Professionals. From roadside restaurants to Star Hotels, from agricultural labors to the construction of Polavaram and Kaleswaram projects they are required. Most of the migrant laborers have returned to their native places. Whether they will be absorbed there or they will return to the places of works is a thousand Dollars question. C.M. of U.P.Yogi Adithyanatha wants permission from his Govt to engage the U.P. migrant workers in other states. Their life is between the devil and the deep sea. If they dare to stay home, the country’s economic and construction activities will come to a grinding halt.
Not enough has been done to alleviate the migrant workers and many other unorganized sectors. Announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and analyzed by the Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman, Rs.20.00,000/- crore scheme, ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT, instantly offers little for them.
All these may be themes for award-winning films, novels, stories, and a research thesis. But it may be long before a solution is evolved to wriggle out from the rut the spiritual ambassadors and the economic and industrial backbones of India.
హలాల దున్నీ,
ఇలాతలంలో హేమం పిండగ —–
జగానికంతా సౌఖ్యం నిండగ —–
విరామ మెరుగక పరిశ్రమించే,
బలం ధరిత్రికి బలికావించే,
కర్షక వీరుల కాయం నిండా
కాలవ కట్టే ఘర్మ జలానికి,
ఘర్మ జలానికి,
ధర్మ జలానికి,
ఘర్మ జలానికి ఖరీదు లేదోయ్!

(Chandrasekhara Kalkura comes from a family of migrant hotel workers from Udupi. The family migrated to Kurnool way back in the 1940s to set up a small hotel in the town. He was chief of Hotels’ Association of the undivided Andhra Pradesh.)