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.
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
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.
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.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.