Migrant workers walk back to their villages amid the coronavirus lockdown in Uttar Pradesh | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Migrant workers walk back to their villages amid the coronavirus lockdown | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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New Delhi: As migrant workers across India walk back to their villages amid the coronavirus lockdown, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated trade union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, asking for an amount of Rs 5,000 to be transferred immediately to each migrant worker family.

Pointing to the “unrest of migrant workers”, the BMS has termed the next 16 days as “critical” and suggested a slew of measures, including counselling similar to what was provided after the 2004 tsunami, as well as community kitchens.

“A massive level of counselling is required among migrant workers. The district medical authority with the help of academic institutions can conduct these counselling sessions as was done during the Tsunami,” reads the letter sent by BMS Monday.

The trade union has also hinted at “anti-social elements” being behind the mass exodus of migrant labourers from cities.

“It seems very difficult to calm down the unrest that’s prevailing in the minds of migrant workers. Ugly scenes are being witnessed in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Delhi, UP, Haryana etc,” says the BMS letter, signed by its general secretary, Virjesh Upadhyay.

“We doubt that, some vested interested forces are adding fuel to the fire to malign the GOI (government of India) and also state governments. If the same situation continues, new problems may flare up in few other states as also other towns of the same state where migrant labourers are in huge numbers,” it adds.

“BMS believes that it is not advisable to send thousands (lakhs in Delhi and Mumbai cities) of these migrant labours (sic) to their native places at this sensitive juncture. It may increase/spread pandemic to village level,” it adds.

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Also read: Mass exodus of migrants: Are they the Covid-19 lockdown violators or victims?


Open new accounts to transfer money

BMS president Saji Narayanan told ThePrint that the suggested amount of Rs 5,000 per family “can be sent through DBT (direct benefit transfer) to those who have Jan Dhan accounts, bank accounts or postal accounts”.

“In many cases, they may not have bank accounts. Then, the district administration can immediately open bank account/postal accounts for those persons. It is very difficult to pay cash to migrant labourers, as some of them have already left their place of work,” Narayanan said.

He added that rather than distributing food packets, as is being done at several places, the migrant workers need to be given rations, as their food habits are different from the states they work in.

“BMS has been feeding migrant workers at several places in the country. It is important that they are given psychological counselling as there is fear and panic among them. They need to be reassured. Even their villages that are restricting their entry need to be counselled,” Narayanan said.


Also read: In pictures: Migrant workers pursue long journeys back home amid coronavirus lockdown


Community kitchens

The letter to the finance minister also has the suggestion to set up community kitchens for these workers.

“Massively start community kitchens by involving community organisations, temples, individual charity persons, trader’s organisations etc. to provide facility till one week after the lockdown period ends. Food Corporation of India’s services, sources, materials can be utilised fully for this purpose,” the letter says.

The BMS has also urged the government to extend relaxation to contractors, industrialists, businesspersons “who retain their workers by ensuring advance payment, medical facilities and accommodations. For this purpose, the finance ministry may support these groups”.

It has asked the government to start some relief camps and shelter homes in migrant worker and daily wage earner-dominated areas, with the help of state governments and elected representatives, and says intermittent check posts should be put in place during the process of walking back home to ensure the fitness of the workers to proceed further.

Villagers restricting entry

On the reports that migrant workers’ entry is being restricted to their own villages, BMS says: “We came to know that in some places the local villages and locality people are not allowing entry to these migrant labourers, due to scare of coronavirus spread. This also leads to chaos.

“So, the district administration should prevail upon these village heads/localities to take care of these migrants. It is learnt that parents, due to panic, are calling their respective children/families to return to their native places. So, local administration needs to identify such parents and counsel them suitably.”

The BMS has also asked the Ministry of Labour to involve it and other central trade unions in resolving emerging tensions.


Also read: ‘Better to die with families’ — no food or money, Delhi migrants prefer the long walk home


 

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3 Comments Share Your Views

3 COMMENTS

  1. Not sure how many jandhan accounts are genuine and mostly held by criminal minded politically connected black money hoarders during demonitisation time. Rather provide cooked simple food to overcome the difficult time. Food choice cannot be considered as an excuse for this during this tough time.

  2. Whatever may have been the push factor that drove these desperate people to the shelter of their village homes, one would wholeheartedly welcome and endorse this noble suggestion. The RSS itself has a fine tradition of social service which it may be pleased to extend to this national emergency.

    • India needs frontline health care workers. RSS can certainly provide it disciplined volunteers. It will be a big service to nation.

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