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HomeNational InterestWhite-collar, blue-collar, no-collar: Discovery of a working class Modi’s India forgot

White-collar, blue-collar, no-collar: Discovery of a working class Modi’s India forgot

The millions of poor going home are a wonderful new generation of aspirational, working-class Indians. Modi and his government didn’t account for their fate.

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We usually classify the working classes based on the colour of the collars they wear: White-collar and blue-collar. The tragic, startling and continuing drama on our highways has woken us up to the existence of a third category of our working classes. Let’s call them the collar-less workers.

Why collar-less, you might ask. And with good reason. I would suggest, therefore, that picture all the hundreds of people you might see in the course of one day, making our lives possible, safe, comfortable.

Those loading and unloading bricks, cement and steel from trucks. Hauling bricks and mortar at construction sites. Those ironing our clothes on the corners of our neighbourhoods, tending to our gardens, pulling our rickshaws, fetching and carrying, cutting our hair, frying samosas and jalebis at the local halwai’s.

How often do you see them actually wearing a shirt while working? Shirts are cumbersome in their jobs. So, they often take them off and work in the usual baniyans (singlets) or worn out tees.

But their shirtless backs do not make the jobs less important. You can’t do without them. With the barbers away, for example, even the prime minister’s moustache is hanging longer by the day. Check out the pictures from his various speeches and public appearances. We miss our press wala, our maali, our raddi wala, even the rag-picker.

This third category of working classes, that we somehow thought was invisible thus far, is much more numerous than the other two, collared classes. We’ve not been noticing these workers because they are so meshed in our lives, we take them for granted. And because they were silent. They are the ones now speaking up and making their presence felt.

So many carry their children; in one case outside Agra, even one hanging on a suitcase, though you can be sure no Samsonite has built wheels yet to survive a 500-km “walk”. Some carry old parents on their shoulders, obviously strong from life-long physical labour as the collar-less backbone of India’s economy.

Some deliver babies on the way, and some die. Run over by speeding trucks, trains, or felled by sickness. Read the story by ThePrint’s Jyoti Yadav and Bismee Taskin, for example, of Ram Kripal, 68, who travelled 1,600 km in a truck over four days from Mumbai to reach home in Sant Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, and collapsed just as he got close. He was thirsty, exhausted, just done with it. Tested only after his death, he was also positive for coronavirus.

Also read: 9-month pregnant woman travels 900 km from UP to Bihar, then made to wait hours for delivery

The good thing is, having discovered this missing Indian working class, we all want to help. The bad thing is, we still get it all wrong. That is because we still do not understand who they are. Let’s, for a test, run a little quiz among ourselves on who these tens of millions are.

They are very poor people, obviously, we will say. They are hungry, homeless, unemployed, with no incomes, no shoes, blistered feet, hopeless poor things. Children of a lesser God, somebody is bound to pull that out too. They are running back home in ignorance and panic. If only they were smart enough to know they might be safer in the cities, and so on.

We are all wrong. And it is because we understand them all wrong, our solutions are worse. Take food packets, collect used clothes, feel sorry for them, rant on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. ‘I am so heartbroken’, while talking about this never-ending exodus, is an expression used as often now as ‘this deadly coronavirus’. This is how you spell hypocrisy.

If you’d only stop and speak with any of these retreating workers and ask them what they were doing in the city, and what they were earning for it, you will know how wrong you were. A worker who does purely physical labour, like loading and unloading trucks, earns anything from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 a day. Of course, their working day isn’t necessarily eight hours. But that’s not why he/she came to the city.

This is for the category we unfortunately classify as ‘unskilled workers’. Anyone with a bit of training and skill — a tailor, a barber, mason, carpenter and so on — would earn a lot more. They aren’t exactly destitute, hungry and helpless people lucky to get three meals a day.

Most of them, in fact almost all of them, did not leave their villages because they were starving. They came here looking for better lives.

Migration within the country, from village to the city, from any city to a metro, is as much an aspirational urge as an engineer hunting for that H-1B visa and that holy grail of a Green Card, or what, especially in our southern states’ matrimonial bazaar, is called a GC. Saves words and money in a matrimonial ad, you see.

What a GC is to our middle-class children and children-in-law-to-be, is a Rs 600 per shift manual labourer’s job for the child of a marginal, subsistence farmer from deep inside western Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal. They did not come to the cities to escape hunger, deprivation and destitution.

Ask them, with patience not pity, why they came here. What did they do with the money they earned? The answers you should get are on the lines of the following: To improve the quality of life for my family, children and myself. To have some surplus, which I save each day to send home, so my kids can go to a better school.

The millions you see going back are no beggars. They are a wonderful new generation of aspirational, working-class Indians whose pride and self-esteem has now been so rudely punctured. This is the greatest mass humiliation of India’s most hard-working millions in decades.

They are the builders of our booming economy, generators of surpluses, contributors to our demographic talent pool that improves by the day as they educate their children with that one dream the people of every resurgent nation and society have: My children should live a life better than mine. In the country whose GCs our children vie for, this is called living the American Dream.

Also read: Modi needs to give migrant workers a ‘New Deal’ to get them back to the cities

Narendra Modi and his government are hurting. They know they dropped this ball. The images and voices speak out to them from all corners of India, especially the Hindi heartland where their voters are.

They also read them wrong in believing that all they needed was a little money in their accounts and immediate succour. They miss the point that this sudden, shock-and-awe lockdown so thoroughly failed to take the fate of these millions into account that their lives are completely disrupted. It is this collar-less working class that fell between the cracks as the Lutyens’ bureaucracy gamed this lockdown.

And to know how wrong we get this, check out the security guard outside your house. They man the padlocked gates of your colony, shooing away ‘unauthorised’ visitors on behalf of Middle India’s equivalent of Kim Jong-un, the Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA). Why are these guards not walking back home with these hordes? Aren’t they concerned about their families, panicking about the virus? Aren’t they poor?

They are all of that, and yet stay put, because they are still assured of their wages, and understand they came to the city to take their families a step up in life. Almost all of them work double shifts and live a dozen to a room and save to send home. The difference is, their employers haven’t dumped them. If only this had been ensured for the rest just for a few weeks, crores of Indians would have been saved this trauma, and India this global embarrassment.

Also read: Hitching rides on trucks, highway pit stops in the heat — migrants continue their walk home


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  1. I am sorry. I made a mistake in contributing a small sum of Rs.1000 to ThePrint hearing the appeal of Sri Shekhar Gupta after listening to his youtube speeches on Corona. I will not watch him on anything other than Corona or informative speecehes.

  2. For these collarless people leader is required like
    George Fernandis of May 1974 not NDA co-ordinator.

  3. For these collerlesd people require Leader like
    George Fernandis of May 1974. Not like present Gandhi who is a duplicate Mahatma Gandhi

  4. The more I think after reading this article, the more I feel that Shekar ji has lost the plot here. Some key points to be considered here before blaming the Mod Govt.
    – Central Govt wanted everyone to stay put at their places.
    – State governments were not ready to receive their local populace who have gone out in search of better jobs.
    – Comparing Indians living in other Indian cities as destitute labour vs comparing Indians living in foreign land as destitutes are like comparing apples and oranges.
    – There are agencies which can help and have been helping in whatever capacity the destitute Indians within India – but there was no one to help the Indians who were stuck in foreign land.
    – Indians within India have the option of walking to their hometown by Road, Indians stuck abroad have no such option
    – The so called labour exporting states just do not have the capacity to deal with the outbreak of disease and they can’t overnight build the capacities.
    – The processes are slow, boring and requires patience.
    – In the interest of the nation – what Modi Govt has done is the best – even though the labour had to undergo tremendous pain.

    I think, the TINA factor has played very much in Govt deciding to stop these people, but the press and opposition as usual exploited the gullible by spreading the message that Modi Govt is arranging planes for rich, while no buses for the poor. The fact of the matter is that an Indian living outside India without an income is a beggar in more dire straits than a labour in India who has been fired by his employer. Baahar koi Mai Baap nahin hai saab!

  5. This was a wonderful and great video on “the working class indians”………
    Infact one should call it “disposable workforce”……”use it and throw it”….
    During kargil war got introduced to this word “gun-fodder/cannon-fodder” used in the context of foot soldiers of pakistan’s northern light infantry. The two words “disposable workforce and gun fodder” are synonymous with each other. First used in civilian context and other in military context.


  7. Truth is govt ignored reality, warnings of WHO and MPs of Indian parliment and announced lockdown and gave just 4 hours of notice to citziens and then ignore the reality.

    It is all about leadership. Here are some quotes of Max De Pree is a well known American businessman and writer.

    “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

    “Leaders don’t inflict pain – they share pain.”

    “Leadership is liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible.”

  8. Let us respect everypne. Just lend a hand & help whatever possible. Each one share & sacrifice for the less fortunate. Allah says the poor will enter paradise long ahead the rich. Because the bear the burden more & also suffer the most. May Allah”s peace & mercy be upon every human. After all this life is short & the therHere after is everlasting as the prophet Muhammed taught us. Follow the teachings of the the prophet. The role model of the Holy Quran to attain success. There is no GOD except Allah & Muhammed is His messenger sent as a mercy to all mankind


  10. As always you are to the point.Modi either doesn’t understand or pretending as if everything is under his control.The mess he has created is not going to go away that easily .Wait and watch.

  11. Dear sir,
    I like the part of the article and dislike some part of the article. For ages this so called no collar class people are always deprived even in 21st century. I just want to say that governments are not formed to change their fate. Governments in democracy can only lays foundation, set rules to follow, building the infrastructure but can’t force each individual to do whatever govt want. E.g. In lockdown relaxation in various states, how those common public i.e. so called type of blue collar or no collar class public heading for wine shops without maintaining social distance even after Everyday Central and state Govt of India of any party begging to public to maintain necessary precautions. In such covid 19 situations, every human being facing challenges in either ways but overcome them is in the hands of people only. It’s easy to blame governments and govts are finding solutions at macro levels so that losses incurred by industry minimize and job market can be restored.

  12. it is very sad that everyday poor migrant workers suffering and dieing , i am not a fool i am watching everything how poor are suffering ? every one preaching and praising Modi for what ? now we already inside the HELL ? and Modi govt is a hell ? ….acha din anewala hai… ….my foot


  14. It is a good article but too late when these poor people in your terms, collar less have been pushed to the thin edge. And I am afraid if we will continue to spare little ink writing for them. Reason for my suspicions is quite obvious because these poor but valuable citizens of this land were with us for many decades and remained neglected. They were ironing our clothes, trimming our moustache, massaging our bodies and doing many inhuman services to the previleged class but we did not find time and wisdom to write for them. I hope we shall devote some time for them regularly and not occassionally as it suits to us. Tks.

  15. Fake news, unwanted and biased news. Nothing true about India!!! Modi is an excellent leader. Finally India deserved an honest and a hard-working prime minister.
    Print please close your rubbish news!!!!!

    • Will you please ask your hard working leader to attend ONE Press conference attended by Godi-less media ? You will know how courageous is he !

  16. Lesser rights (or rigidity in the system) but with more jobs is better than more rights and no jobs. There is no right or dignity in poverty and unemployment. This is the biggest humanitarian and humans rights issue. People first need to have a job for their own self-respect.

  17. You represent only the “ personal interest “ of slamming Modi , Shekhar . Where does National come into being ?

    • Time to apply burnol Mr Pal Singh. Counter the authors views with facts and data if you can. Otherwise please understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion without being called anti this or that.

  18. Shekhar Gupta at his favorite game of bashing Modi..”Shock and Awe” Lockdown ?? What would the great journo Shekhar Gupta have MODI do under the circumstances..he doesn’t enlighten us!! So if the migrants fell between the cracks its MODI’s fault..What about apportioning responsibility to the respective state governments starting with Delhi and Maharashtra who boasted that they had enough resources to feed was under their watch that the exodus happened because of mismanagement..these unfortunate people were left to the whims of perty contractors only to be abandoned..the respective state governments should have taken direct control of the migrant workers…but they allowed the situation to slip out of control..A lockdown can only succeed with the 100% cooperation of every citizen..Shekhar Gupta obviously doesn’t know the meaning of a federal set up where the writ bureaucracy of lutyens Delhi doesn’t extend to the states ..its easy being wise in hindsight to criticize and carp like he has done ever since this crisis hit India..but no solutions are offered..the comparision with China is Apt.. China isn’t a democracy but for all its strong arm tactics it couldn’t prevent the death of nearly 5000 of its citizens..MODI and his democracy depended on the cooperation of the people for lockdown to succeed..that important fact gets lost in the hyperbole spin by journos like Shekhar Gupta..for them it is give MODI a bad name and hang him..

    • Answer 1 simple question: Who announced the lock-down with a 4-hour notice ?:
      1. Maharashtra Govt.
      2. Delhi Govt.
      3. Any other State Govt.
      4. MODI.
      So don’t panic now if people are blaming the person who wanted to be HERO and take all the credit.

  19. Omitting the poor and starved is not new for this ruling party of India. All the other parties which ruled India did them same mistake of omitting these working class. Only some constitutional bindings to protect these people will save them in the future. But, who will do this? All parties of India ‘eye’ only snatching votes from their hands by throwing some menial amount or some gifts from these illiterate voters. BJP is not exception for this.

  20. It’s easy to poke holes in open spaces. There is no denying that we are a third world country with scant resources. The country and so the government just can’t provide cover everywhere.
    The Print is a lousy. SheGu was one of the 3 Conslaves who went through kitchens and hearths of villagers to find out if Ujwala gas did reach them. And when the owner was already confirming if he did receive the benefit!
    Shameless to say the least.

  21. That is the Indian mentality. Whether it’s a reporter, mantri, bureaucrat, policeman, government official or even an ordinary person, there is no respect for those of a lower economic strata. The poor have no names and no identity. They exist only to be scorned or pitied.

  22. thanks.. i have been wondering all these days that why are the “collar less workers” going back. this one explains to a large extent…

  23. Country roads, take me home
    To the place I belong
    Take me home, country roads

    I hear nature’s voice in the mornin’ hour, she calls me
    Thirst and hunger reminds me of my home far away
    Walking down the road, I get a feelin’
    That I should’ve been home.

    Country roads hurry, take me home
    To the place I belong
    Take me home early, country roads

    Based on Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver

  24. Very interesting perspective, and unless someone is a bhakth – there is no offence here. But I have two cents to add, One – None of us, Not only Modi or Trump – or even WHO – has no idea what we are doing and what we are getting in to. Imagine if this whole thing was something that would have been tackled with 3 to 4 weeks of strict lockdown – Probably we would not have been talking about the migrant labor at all. Two – Next question is – Modi failed or our Indian think tank failed in dealing with this. Because compared to many countries, we could attack corona very early and at least could stop rapid spread and also saved many sectors and elders from it (Here in US, I know, at many levels right from testing and lockdowns 5 or 6 states literally failed in many aspects). In fact, I have been following this issue for the past 10 days or so and I too felt the same way – Modi is not a leader who is made in one day. Though I am not a fan of him, I have to admit – he has unmatched 45 years of experience of politics and he has an enormous exposure to base level Indian culture – really curious what went in his mind about these millions of people who are no less than back bone of our country. And for me the best part was reading the GC part – I am a radiologist (after serving 2 and half years in government) moved from India and settled in USA I always consider myself as a Migrant Labor, (but of course I did not move for better quality of life of future of my kids (I have kids but no concern for their future) – I moved in to a culture which better fits to my mindset and thought process and perspective about life. And the way, you compared both situations speaks a lot about the intellectuality of this article. And I wish to conclude with only one issue here – like the way, there is way of process for this legal migration – India should also come with a proper documentation of these migrant labors and it helps the nation to take care of them in a more organized manner and avoid the chaos.

    • Modi is not dumb and heartless as you say but he is also a prisoner of capitalism. His industrialist and builder friends don’t want to let go these migrant workers for their business interests also they don’t want to pay them without working..

  25. Well said Shekar Ji,. while the entire media wants to play politics. How true when you say -“-The millions you see going back are no beggars–If only this had been ensured for the rest just for a few weeks, crores of Indians would have been saved this trauma, and India this global embarrassment.–
    our solutions are worse. Take food packets, collect used clothes, feel sorry for them, rant on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. ‘I am so heartbroken’, while talking about this never-ending exodus, is an expression used as often now as ‘this deadly coronavirus’. This is how you spell hypocrisy.”

    Honest assessment

  26. So Guptaji has just discovered this collar-less class. Congrats. Btw, till now you had not noticed coz you were in some cloud cuckoo land? Buried inside a Khan market bistro?

    Rant, rant, rant….even by your dalali and loyalty to congis standards, your so-called journalism is a now a total disgrace.

    • Here’s some burnol for you Mr Mandal. Also some digene to digest the truth that the article has mentioned.

  27. SG’s only intention is to attack present dispensation aggressively? Sitting with
    Political leaders in the opposition bench and write very lengthy articles is very easy than giving a helping hand to migrants? SHAMLESS man?

  28. The issue was correctly chosen by SG but sorry to say that the blame game was intentionally diverted towards central government.
    These mishaps are simply result of bad administrative decisions and lack of sensitiveness of the local state governments.
    We are really sorry for the ill treatment to our fellow countrymen any express our condolences to those who lost their lives.

    • When Central govt decided to impose nationwide lockdown without discussing State leaders how can you say it is problem of State governments..? Mind you most of the migrant workers are from UP and Bihar , are ruled by BJP..

  29. It is a stange morality that worries about the ‘global embarrassment’ caused to India by images of millions of migrants trudging home on foot. It shifts the focus away from the desprate plight of the migrants. The real tragedy or ’embarrassment’ is that no civilised state should have inflicted such horrendous sufferings on its less fortunate citizens.

  30. It is a bad article. . Critics are not needed. Only nation builders with positive attitude are needed.

  31. It’s not only the govt that let them down but people like us also betrayed them. God have mercy upon them and mercy on us for we surely failed in our duty

  32. I completely agree with the writer. But blaming Modi for entire plight of migrant workers is neither way can be justified. There was not a better way to get the country safe. While the writer raised real problem of workers facing, he has not suggested batter solution.

  33. People had started getting an impression that Shekhar Gupta has become pro-Modi now! He pricks a tiny needle to that impression here. I don’t think anyone can point a finger to any fact mentioned in this article and call it a lie – that is about the facts in the article. The opinion side of the article – again, no one can call any of that a lie, for opinions are just that, opinions and not facts.

    While Shekhar does bring out the 3rd, most ignored class in the country, he does not do justice here to the complete set of facts. I almost agree that the government dropped the ball here. I don’t think the government’s intent was lacking though, it was more a case of just plain missing it completely. They are trying to make amends, but that was always going to be difficult given the large numbers and the floating nature of this population. It would have been difficult even if they had not missed them in the first place too, rather it would have taken valuable time away in figuring out a workable solution for including this ‘collar-less’ population in the lockdown approach and we probably would have lost time in putting the restrictions.

    What Shekhar misses though (I wouldn’t call intentional) is the ‘why’ of this situation. Why does this population have to go from their homes in search of this ‘American Dream’? Why can’t Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bengal, Odisha provide them means to achieve their dreams in their native states or even better, native places? This is not a recent problem. This has been festered over decades of apathy towards governance and improvements of people’s lives by successive governments since independence. I don’t want to get into the history of which government did or did not do what in each of these states, but it is this successive failure that has brought the country to this state of affairs, and Shekhar totally missed this part of the story in this article.

    • Yes that is a great point! No one dropped the BALL, even if it was dropped – it was not intentional at all, More of miscalculation of the entire game. Also agree – time is not for Blame game, time for a Good Game Plan!

  34. Brilliantly written. SG is a writer who is supposed to show us the mirror, he is not a politician and it is not his job to find solutions. It has been Modi’s job for the last six years and he has not delivered. Modi came to power on his promises of reforms. One little jibe – ‘suit boot ki sarkar’ and he dropped the idea like the proverbial hot potato. In a sense, Modi is a coward who preferred staying in power to the the greater public good. l guess a politician would always prefer power to everything else.

  35. जिन्हें आप आज बिना रोटी के दरबदर होता देख रहे हो, वो कुछ कम या ज्यादा की संख्या में, हर साल दो बार दरबदर होते हैं…
    ये जो झोला उठाये, मासूमों को अपने संग चिपकाये, चले चले जा रहे हैं ना, ये सभ्यता और राष्ट्र रूपी भव्य महलों की नीवं में लगे पत्थर हैं जो सबसे पहले गाढ़े जाते हैं… फिर धरा में दब कर पूरे प्रासाद का वजन उठाते हैं.. बिना दिखे, बिना कुछ कहे… ये सब के उदर की क्षुधा शांत करने वाले गेहूँ और धान की फसल के वो अंश हैं जिन पर अन्न की बालीयाँ पनपती है अौर जो कटाई के बाद वहीं खेत में छोड़ दिये जाते हैं, सूख कर, जल कर अगली फसल तैयार करने को… साल में दो बार… पर पहले ये आपको दिखते नहीं थे क्योंकि तब आप अपनी अपनी जिंदगी में मशगूल थे, अगर ये आपके पास से भी निकल जाते थे, तो आप घृणा से अपनी नाक सिकोड़ लेते थे क्योंकि आपको इनसे पसीने की दुर्गन्ध आती थी… आप इन्हें आज केवल इसलिए देख पा रहे हैं क्योंकि आज आपकी जिंदगी कुछ रुकी हुई है… कल जब आपकी जिंदगी दोबारा चल पड़ेगी, तब आपको फिर से दिखने बंद हो जायेंगे ये…ये नीवों के पत्थर, ये फसलों के अंश…


  36. Why didn’t the governments give, atleast 2 or 3 days, notice & arrange transportation for the Urban labourers to return home ??
    After 1st day’s CARONA national bunch, suddenly stopping Transportation, is the worst thing done, even by State Governments.
    I was feeling guilty when I ran & occupied a seat in a Private taxi, when many more young ladies were still looking scared, in that evening.
    Mr.Yedeurappa, no engineer/ special adviser was needed to take this decision to allow poor people to go back, instead of crying on the Roads of cities

  37. Is it not possible to have stalls along the highways like they have for marathons and ‘Warkaris’ with free water or buttermilk/ dry snacks for these people trudging home ?

  38. If only christening one of the most important pillars of the so far burgeonig economy would do them any justice, let them be named Grey Collars and each one of us do our bit, while we see them on highways and roads in the scorching Sun, not just whiz past in our vehicles ignoring their plight.
    Let’s think of the ways how they can be helped at this stage, immediate help to give them strength, which they have got in plenty already.

  39. Good point, Collar-less worker – my guess is, mostly construction workers!!!
    And suddenly our “educated” consciousness is activated…seeing some pictures & videos…otherwise, since 1947 we were playing the ostrich…
    The interesting thing is, as Shekhar Gupta was saying, they are not necessarily poor…and I know, they sometimes earn more than Primary school teachers in Bangalore’s mushrooming private schools…
    The real impoverished “citizens” are there in specific pockets in Central India – say Bundelkhand…and we care little for them…media do not track them and we do not see them…
    I always felt India should have 500-700 states, each district made into an independent state, with a CM, with a capital City…else poorer districts remain in the black holes forever…
    And the council of CMs – the Indian Parliament….just one election!!! not MLA and MPs
    Imagine, the population of Uttar Pradesh at 200+ million is bigger than that of Russia, same as Brazil…people are busy with NOIDA, Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur and Allahabad etc…Bundelkhand is too insignificant …
    One suggestion – stop reading newspapers and 9 O’clock news…try to figure it out yourself…

  40. It is easy to be wiser in hindsight. Nevertheless, this is a well written article & just because the author is all the blame at centre’s doorstep, the problems outlined are real.
    PM Modi & his team for it totally wrong for several reasons
    1. State governments did nothing expecting the centre to take all decisions.
    2. The employers quickly washed their hands off though it is their responsibility to care for people who work for them. Remember, PM Modi in one of his addresses urged every well meaning citizen to take care of those who did their work?
    3. Probably, they are not a part of anybody’s vote bank.

  41. Sekar Gupta in his own style has,finally,got time to write a piece regarding the plight of migrant workers,using choicest words,satisfying himself that he has done great service to these classes of working people of India by a new classification,coining collarless workers,ignoring the old coinage of unorganised workers. It must have pricked his consciousness towards the migrant workers by just juxtoposing the emigrant workers. you cannot hide the fact under the cover of aspirational Indian,that they have come not only from BIMARU states but also from east and far eastern india only to escape from hunger,abject poverty etc..,most of them are doing only menial jobs getting better wages in metro and other cities.They live in a very bad condition and save some money only to feed their large family members who are virtually nothing.Some of them are bringing their spouses and little ones also. you may also notice the walking millions along with their wife and children ,some with elderly also.What they have saved is only some utensils and set of cloths.exposing the Corporate India the hollowness of their dream of becoming Super power to the whole world to see. It is a slap on the face of these so called aspirational indians. Unless they are politcally organised,focussing their agenda of better living standards and refused to accept for pittance,there is no real improvement. Sharing of concern and empathy is not enough,though welcome.Equality and distribution of wealth alone save them in the long run. Hope 21st century belongs to them. MERA BHARAT MAHAN, Sab ke sath, sab ke vikas in the true sense.

  42. The last time these people appear ed in nees was during Notebandhi. That was 1st time Black Englishmen saw queues and said “are you serious”
    No one is asking question why on first place these people have to leave UP Bihar for meagre jobs while Private limited parties ruled these states. Bengal joined this league of elite BIMARU states after being ruled 40 yrs in a strech by half minded comrades and their award winning scholars

  43. 1. What the author is saying about migrant workers is true but is it not true that all these years we have never cared to take steps for these migrants’ welfare? Many city-dwellers like me have helplessly watched, on TV screens, pathetic scenes of migrant workers walking on foot to their village, hundreds of kilometers away, in States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, etc. This author’s views expressed in this article would certainly provoke many among us to think about need for implementation of urgent labour law and other reforms. 2. I wish to say something about just one aspect- issues related to employability of landless/unskilled workers. 3. Uttar Pradesh and many northern States with a huge number of landless workers have to deal with these issues on a priority basis. 4. Is it not true that whether it is the State government of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha or of Rajasthan, not one of these governments has ever bothered to find out the migrant workers’ problems? In fact, each one these State governments has simply refused to take cognizance of implications/impact of migration on its own economy or on economy of the States to which workers were migrating year after year.
    5. I think once we are out of coronavirus threat, and once our economy gets back on path of revival, we need to do undertake a thorough study of all issues related to migration of landless workers and their rights. 5. I believe various issues are as follows: (a) how many and why landless workers are migrating, (b) how political leadership of States, particularly Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, etc., from where migration is taking place, has never been held accountable for poor management of the available natural resources and human capital, (c) what should be responsibility of the States which while providing opportunities of employment to migrant workers, show hardly any concern about issues relating to workers’ welfare, particularly about their housing requirements, healthcare needs, etc. ,(d) what kind of laws are required to regulate employment of the migrant workers and how to implement them effectively once they are enacted, (e) urbanization related growth of slums in many metros which has a direct connection with increase in number of migrant workers. Lastly, representatives of those sectors of economy which employ migrant workers should ideally be involved in this study of migrant workers’ issues.

  44. Mr. Guptaji, it is so easy to crtise anybody. But it is also responsibility of the creatisiser to offer certain solutions or the remedies too. It was responsibility to maintain their workers for whom they were working and of govt of respective states. They had to provide food and essentials and has to ask for assistance from central govt. The business owner, industrialist and state govts failure. In federal govt system, the central govt roll shall be limited to procure enough fund to all state govt. What is the duty and functions of state govt? Just to enjoy power? In such unexpected, beyond control, cirtumtancis proves the ability of state govt and people keeps in mind, the afforts put by Central and state govt.

    • Not at all the responsibility of the critic to any solutions or remedies. On the other hand the one who is criticoised should thank him for criticism, and at once try to correct his mistakes and stupidities. You think that the critics are there to baby-feed the PM? Why was the lockdown announced with just 4 hours notice? Why didn’t he think of hundreds of millions of migrant workers? If he can’t act responsibly, then he shpuld resign. No emplotyer can keep the workers if there is no work. Where would the money to pay the salaries would come from? And how can states do anything if they don’t have money? Why didn’t Modi talk to the states before announcing the lockdown about what they can do, and what they can’t? He has taken all the decisions, and so he is responsible for all of them.

  45. PM Mr Modi and his advisors committed Hara – Kiri , when in arrogance the PM on 24th March declared lockdown giving 4 hours only , without considering the situation that this lakhs of colorless workers would be put in , instead of correcting this mistake , the srrogancy of PM continued and lakhs of poor migrants suffered just like Jews suffered at the hands of Nazis , by the time PM realised that these migrants didn’t give shit about his lectures and started walking home , the PM was forced to announce to allow migrants to travel to their native place , but his hurt arrongance made the poor migrants , with no money , no food , hungry , no water pay through their noses rail and bus fare , those who hadno single rupee , started walking home , PM’s arrongance didn’t stop from getting revenge , in the 20 lakh corore package declared , there is hardly any actual and physical relief for this poor migrants , PM and his Govt., didn’t consider as humans but as objects to be exploited and discarded , now realising a blunder that 22 seats election are on the horizon , and a majority of these poor objects would be voting , probably against BJP for PM and his men did to them , the PM had hurriedly ordered Chauhan’s Govt., to provide everything to these poor migrants or else the BJP Govt., is likely to go in permanent lockdown .

  46. State governments are squarely to be blamed for this mess created by mass exodus of migrants,what for District collectors,DGsof police are there,having no concern for the common people,this is worst scenarios in a country where we have elected MLA and MPs democratically. We are living in British Raj and no officers are self accountable it seems. These migrant people will never forgive this autocratic central and state governments and the future will tell what will happen to this great country after serial of mistakes like demonetization,faulty GST implementation and the mishandling of this great pandemic.

  47. History is repeating itself.

    More than a 1000 years ago Hinduism collapsed because of its own internal contradictions. The Muslim invasion just accelerated that collapse.

    Modi had a great chance in 2014 to take the Hindus in a new direction. He blew this chance.

    And seeing the reaction of Hindus to the plight of other Hindus in the current lockdown, it is clear that nothing has changed.

    Let’s not even talk about Kashmir and other minorities. This is Hindus vs other Hindus.

    • Hinduism if ever was any such thing, never collapsed. In history almost all countries were conquered by others sometime or other and remained under subjugation for long periods. Turks and Mughals and later British conquered us . That’s part of our history.

      • And contrary what is told often, Indian Hindu kings like Bijay Singha or cholas from south conquered territories outside India. About being insensitive to poor men’s plight, it is universal and a class characteristic and nothing to do with religion.

      • You miss my point. All occupations last for short periods. Not a single country has been occupied for a 1000 years. Not one except India.

        Sure one can quibble that there was no India or no Hinduism. But you get the point.

        But worry about the next 1000 years. The way these migrants have been humiliated, India will not rise again in the near future.

        • In most countries after a time distinction between occupiers and occupieds got blurred because of intermixing and cultural integration. So no country remained as before.

          • Migrant labour issue will be forgotten soon. Caste dynamics and dominance will be the political issue for another 1000 years as before.

          • Ah no sir! Study history carefully. In the last 1000 years or so, most countries have maintained their identities even as they absorb foreign influences. But why talk about outsiders? India has new invaders now: the BJP! That is India’s tragedy imposed on the poor, helpless, gentle people who are too refined to openly revolt, whether the invaders are internal (BJP) or external. All people need something to bind them (religion==ri-ligare (to bind)). Hinduism doesn’t provide that (a positive thing, really) . So people use caste. It’s a kind of religion.

    • Even during such a major national crisis some people cannot think beyond caste and religion. Shame on them.

      • Ok. I am ashamed. But who is allowing me to go beyond caste and religion in today’s political discourse.?

          • @Anon Agreed. The BJP is like that.

            It’s a long way. But we have to at least have a rough idea where we need to go. Neither the Khan Market gang (to use Modi’s favorite derogatory term), nor the Hindutva gang have a clue.

            This is both frightening and exhilarating, for it points to an exciting time ahead of problem solving.

            But seeing the wanton cruelty being imposed on a 100 million innocent people doesn’t give me much hope. Indian society has become cruel.

          • @rajeev Cruelty to poor is certainly not a new phenomenon. It may sound irrelevant but I want to share a thought. I saw a Hollywood movie 55 days in Peking. China of 100 or so years ago. Two ordinary Chinese were talking to themselves amidst soldiers of different nationalities who were in turn talking which Chinese peasants didn’t understand. So one Chinese asked another what these people are saying. The person answered, all these people of different nationalities are saying in their language’ China is ours.’ Today’s China is a far cry from those days. India will also become an egalitarian society someday.

          • @Anon. Thanks for the details of the Chinese movie. I wish I could share your optimism about the future of India.

            Talking about cruelty, even Hitler didn’t declare war on his own people (leaving the Jews aside). Here the BJP has declared war on Indians – not just the minorities. It’s still mind boggling that people are cycling distances of up to 1500km. Does it make any sense at all?

            But who knows? After this crisis things may change.

          • It was a Hollywood movie with Charlton Heston,Ava Gardner etc directed by Nicholas Ray, a reputed director. As for bjp, so long their core support base is intact and Hindu Muslim strategy is working well, they feel they don’t have to care for anything else.

  48. Dear Guptaji,
    You are now get an opportunity to say something against current Govt. and particularly PM Modi,
    You are kind of educated person who made earlier assumption that because of BCG vaccine we may no need to worry, our weather is hot we may not need to worry. In short there was no solution to the current situation you have to assume and take chances.
    Now Govt did immediate lock down and your argument was why migrant are not allowed to go back to their home.
    if it was allowed and Covid positive cases increase in the rural India you may certainly argue that why migrant worker allowed to go back to their villages.
    Suppose we were in good position after three weeks of lock down and we need to open our industry, because of your earlier assumption of BCG , hot weather etc. you may argue that why migrant worker were allowed to go back home.
    In short it is not a situation where you can think about it in advance.
    Yes all Govt, including state Govt failed in taking care of migrant worker.

    • Will you offer the same line of argument if you or your family members were stuck in a remote corner of India on 24th March 2020 ?

  49. Dear Guptaji,
    You are now get an opportunity to say something against current Govt. and particularly PM Modi,
    You are kind of educated person who made earlier assumption that because of BCG vaccine we may no need to worry, our weather is hot we may not need to worry. In short there was no solution to the current situation you have to assume and take chances.
    Now Govt did immediate lock down and your argument was why migrant are not allowed to go back to their home.
    if it was allowed and Covid positive cases increase in the rural India you may certainly argue that why migrant worker allowed to go back to their villages.
    Suppose we were in good position after three weeks of lock down and we need to open our industry, because of your earlier assumption of BCG , hot weather etc. you may argue that why migrant worker were allowed to go back home.
    In short it is not a situation where you can think about it in advance.
    Yes all Govt, including state Govt failed in taking care of migrant worker.

  50. Our FM will say : I came from a family where there are no labours. Like the way she talked during onion price.
    20 lakh crore shouldn’t be called package it is a dept given to poor where they have to pay again with interest.
    Till now world bank sponsored 15 k crores = 2B$ where is the amount.
    Yesterday Centrel govt announced states should take care of migrant workers, but govt will not allocate any money to states.

  51. Firstly they are not Modi’s working class. Secondly a big chunk and most vulnerable of those who are suffering as simple initiatives like Aadhar and one nation and one ration card get hindered by kagaz nahi dekhayenge brigade. If I have to direct their anger then it would be there so it will be never again. How 3 years Shekhar discussing Adhar bill and then courts. Then ration card. I will get back with other points before I get over your melodrama of the headline. A simple check those who were opposing Adhar are now most concerned abt migrants.

    • Of course. Adhaar card would have flown the migrants directly to their homes. Who knows it might even have magically stopped the goods train that ran over the 16 unfortunate people. Even after knowing what Bhakts are capable of, one is still surprised at the depths to which they can sink.

      • You mean Rahul or Shekar gupta would have stopped the train or road accidents. Arguments of submission stamped people who call other names and themselves liberals. Now why did congress ruled states agree to one nation and one ration card.

  52. Corona has changed the narrative completely. Does anyone remember the so called Masterstrokes tom-tommed by BJP propagandists: Surgical strike, Ram mandir, Article 370, Citizen amendment bill etc. All future election will be fought only on one agenda: CORONA. And Modi is on a very slippery slope here. Whatever he does, it is going to backfire on him. People are going to punish him and not the State governments because it was he who announced the 4-hour-notice Lockdown.

  53. The plight of this strong working class (to say them migrant in their own country is improper) shows that India will grow more stronger after Covid 19. The governments will recognise that these people should not be allowed to go other States in future, they can make their mother States more stronger if opportunities are made available to this class. It is unfortunate that the States where they were working has committed a big mistake by not addressing their concerns. So far as Union Government is concerned, it was left with no alternative but to lockdown in order to avoid a situation worst than USA (because India is about four times more in population size than USA). But due to fear human being commits some errors, here in this pandemic situation, District Administration could have atleast made arrangements for suitable transportation for this working class but barring some States, this was not done. CMs of this poor administration can learn from Sanyasi Baba Yogi Adityanath.

  54. This lockdown has shown us Indians to be deeply amoral employers. No wages is justonepart of the story. The quality of accommodation is so abysmal that trying to remain within the 4 walls without going out is almost literally suffocating. The quality of food distributed in some places i doubt even crows would eat. All of India got it wrong. But Modi, demigod to millions, got it wrong most of all.

  55. A brilliant analysis, Sekhar Gupta.
    Categorized as skilled,semi-skilled, and unskilled, they happen to be the backbone of a manufacturing plant or as a matter of fact any type of industry. My exposures to this class as a plant head in Haryana did establish the fact that a plant cannot run without them. During my tenure, I came to know each of them by name, their home town, and even their family members. In fact,the bond was so strong that I became their friend, their father figure and their protector as well.
    It is very sad that our nation never even bothered to realize the impact of such a sudden lockdown.

  56. Hypocrites we are…a skilled worker is only one who sits in office, attends meetings, and imagines he is the reason for company’s turnaround at every meeting..all in his head, does not even credit those who made it simpler for him to sit on the chair.
    ..the real skilled workers, my bai, my dhobi, my sweeper et al are the managers of my life as they make my every day chores so simple and I can take my work and family forward only because of them. Our family till date has valued them so and will continue to do so. We all should make it our responsibility to respect them.

  57. An excellent article. WHO had declared Covid-19 outbreak as a global pandemic on March 11. In addition to this declaration, there were enough indications early March 2020 to know that the pandemic was assuming global proportions and no country was likely to be spared. We declared lockdown on 24th March, 8 pm. Thus enough space was available to provide a forewarning to all those who were likely to be affected due to lockdown. But as usual, the decision came as a bolt from the blue. Had some warnings given, this collarless class would have planned their journeys back home well in advance. Or else, subsequent to the lockdown, trains services dedicated to take these migrants to their destinations could have been planned to complete the task in March itself. These collarless migrants were not likely to be infected in this early stage and the threat of spreading infection in the rural areas of Hindi heartlands was minimal. Now, at this stage due to the unplanned and chaotic exodus, the threat of the spread is real and significant. The tragic spectacle of lakhs of hapless migrants walking in the scorching sun reminded all of us of the partition. While the 1947-petition was due to religious divide, this speaks of the economic partition of the country. The most unfortunate thing is that even if these migrants somehow reach their destinations, this is no solution. They will have to come back to reclaim their jobs and the struggle continues,

  58. The last migrant that is suffering today, walking back and even facing road accidents, is the investment of the politicians, now abandoned because the profit has been realized.
    These are the people brought from rural areas through the brokers many a times a bonded labor. They were housed in illegal tenements owned by the local goons turned brokers and politicians.
    A flourishing industry with no investment would have continued fore ever, but for the COVID-19.

  59. straight came to comments section to know what readers have to say about fake news peddler and sold out Sekhar gupta

    • Shouldn’t you be on Op news or Zee news instead Datta, what gives us humble readers the privilege of your August company today.

  60. Fake narrative starts again !!

    Modi doesn’t understand the paper wala, doodh wala, raddi wala, really? Don’t worry Gupta Saab, they understand Modi, that is why they put one of them, a chai wala, in Prime Minister’s seat

  61. Insightful article.

    It’s the white collar middle-class insensitivity that has driven the toiling people to despair and their long march home. We the middle-class have cocooned ourselves in a bubble, where these migrant workers exist for our comfort and petty indulgences. They are the faceless and voiceless minions.

    It is only when we dig deep and try to understand why someone has come a thousand kilometres from home to live in an urban ghetto that we realise what dream they are pursuing: it is to give their children a better life – a simple aspiration really but difficult for us to appreciate.

    We still live unfortunately with our feudalistic mind-set. And our politicians and mandarins merely reflect that mind-set.

  62. Well the article did highlight the shortcomings og govt but it is always easy to do postmortem then surgery and all these labourers are from states which were not voting for BJP 6 YEARSago and should not be questions asked to them who were ruling them for 70 years why did they built nothing for them and only raised slogans like garabi hathao

  63. This is the same Mr Gupta who is promoting an article on The Print that encourages fake news against the Govt.
    You are a sold out journalist Mr Gupta. Sold out to Mummy & Pappu…… and sinking fast.

  64. The government and employers could have jointly to stay put, if salary/advance was given to them to stay put where they were living. The advance could have been adjusted over period of time. As for RWA, the office bearers and residents are most selfish who have prevented them to enter colonies out of fear of getting corona without realising that the hands of domestic servants are always soap socked and they are least affected.

  65. The problems of these migrant workers are very visible because they are shown on tv day in and day out. of course the problem is really there. but there is also this blue collored workers with hitherto regular salary now either jobless or with salary cut with all their loans and no means of support. there plight is not stated in the media. their plight is also bad except that they did not have to face the misfortune of going back home because thankfully they have a shelter as of now.

  66. Yes it’s embarrassing to me at least. Shekhar you undergone the pain lest you couldn’t have written such a soul touching article. And nobody could feel the same pain in order to write such as this. And nobody would ever. We have failed the people though they already had lost the hope but now they have lost any semblance of trust in us.

  67. Lesser human beings – no balconies to bang thalis, no luxury of switching off nonexistent lights to light wasteful lamps, and too busy trudging under the stark summer to see unnecessary flypasts. Still don’t believe they’re run-them-dowm citizens? Except for a miniscule number, check how they’re even spoken to by our marauding reporters, no courtesy of asking names, no thank you, nothing!

    Sorry friends for treating you so disgustingly bad.

    • That is the Indian mentality. Whether it’s a reporter, mantri, bureaucrat, policeman, government official or even an ordinary person, there is no respect for those of a lower economic strata. The poor have no names and no identity. They exist only to be scorned or pitied.

  68. Thanks Shekhar Gupta for this insightful piece. Have been following you for a long time and still await your articles with interest and hope and always aware that there is someone who will pick the issues either forgotten or lost sight of and shake us to do something. Only hope that India as a whole does something for their long-forgotten but essential cogs engaged in a modern nation-building.

    • Modified lies along with his loudmouthed spokesperson SD on barking,,, is seeing a downfall, none of them have an iota of what they talk about and are confusing the nation

  69. Excellent article.

    All these people are self respecting aspirational Indians who sacrifice their comforts for their family and save for the education of their children so that they can lead a better life than themselves.

    The over zealous minions of the govt were only happy to show their suddenly awarded POWER to stop anything and everything. None were keen on helping these people.

  70. Desperate attempt to blame modi. India is doing reasonably well in it’s fight against corona. As for migrant’s troubles, state governments are equally to blame.

    • Modified lies along with his loudmouthed spokesperson SD on barking,,, is seeing a downfall, none of them have an iota of what they talk about and are confusing the nation

    • You miss the point. We are all to blame because we don’t understand- Modi is simply our reflection.

    • This shows the desperation to defend the indefensible, this government. The lockdown of a country of the size of India was unplanned and unprepared, let’s admit. And still no adequate attention and care for these suffering lot. This is the reality.

    • Bhakts might try their usual diversionary tactics by trying to blame state governments but everyone knows who is responsible for this massive humanitarian crisis.

    • Can we ask Modi to give his followers one more task after Thali and Diya.. to fast for 24 hours without food and water so that we can learn what exactly hunger is all about..? Pl stop making fun of these migrant workers plight..

    • When the entire governance is centralized, how can you blame state government…its true that lockdown has no strategy….takes lives of many migrants….

  71. At the end of reading ‘another great piece’ from ‘oscillating’ SG…..”AAP KEHNA KYA CHAHTHEHO?”

    Modi got it wrong. yes, Modi gets it wrong every time haha. the article doesnt mention what could have done. It is very easy, especially like a seasoned journo like SG to RETROSPECTIVELY point out every ‘mistake’ that could have been avoided. but the same SG, despite having ample time to think, brainstrom, blah blah…, doesnt even have a suggestion as to how this problem could have been avoided. There is no mention of the role of state governments who are equally responsible for this scenario. There is no mention of state government(s) refusing to accept migrant workers returning home!! This is very very bad article which wrongly accuses the central govt for all the problems.

    I think SG is badly in need of that head massage from that “collar less” barber…

    • Many things could have been done, mate:
      -Hotels and schools which are lying empty any way could have been requisitioned and taken over to host the people who are homeless or in overcrowded tenements(several other countries have done this)
      -State governments could have been consulted and given advance notice before announcing the lock down with barely four hours notice so that they could have prepared better (South Africa- three days notice before lockdown)
      -Provision for arrangement of free food for migrants and daily wagers through local panchayat and municipalities by providing supplies from overflowing FCI godowns(Kerala government has done this very effectively)
      -Much more importantly,income security should have been provided to daily wagers on day one of lockdown rather than announcing some half baked schemes more than 50 days into the lock down (typical case of putting a cart before a horse)making them stakeholders and his would have stopped millions walking on the highways

      I know,All of this is too much to do for a government which is all show and no substance and only interested in creating an image of doing something and boosting the supreme leader.

    • Elected current PM , his full team of politicians & persons of enormously salaried of select highest calibre in Govt machinery are supposed to be brainy to find solutions & implement to every dire need of citizens . Politicians in power & their fan citizens are now washing off their hands & responsibility by saying common citizens & critics should suggest ways to solve their failures to address dire needs of citizens specially in corona19 time. It’s appearin a pity on our democratic Govt set up.

  72. This write-up reminds me of Prashant Kishor’s comment on Karan Thapar’s interview,, “to understand what they are going through, talk to them (migrants)”

  73. You missed the most inhuman part of it. Most migrant workers must have walked 1000’s of miles in empty stomach as food was nowhere to be had.

  74. There he goes again. The headline itself starts with an anti-India & anti-Modi message. Mr. Gupta, you have alienated a large proportion of your readers who are now tired of criticism for the sake of criticism. I used to respect your journalism until recently Mr. Gupta.
    And honestly Mr. Gupta, it’s a bit rich when the likes of you, the Congress & your Khan-market ilk take up cudgels on behalf of “the poor”.

  75. Avatar Dr. Urvashi Sahni ( Educationist, Social Entrepreneur, Womens Rights Activist - Asoka Fellow) Lucknow, India

    I agree completely! How did Modi get this SO wrong? Or is it the case that he has never cared for this group of people? They have been invisible so far. But the good thing might be that now that they have become visible, they will not be forgotten. Maybe even the BIMARU states will try to retain them and build the industires that will employ them, create job opportunities here in their home states.

    • Madam ji, you are a Social Entrepreneur, educationist, activists… WOW. you rightly said, the crux of the problem is THAT these “collar less” people dont get job in their HOME STATE, which then turn them into a MIGRANT. so the state governments, irrespective of the party, has to be blamed for the CREATION OF MIGRANTS because the they failed in ‘BUILDING INDUSTRIES TO EMPLOY THEM’.




    • This is too optimistic and far-sighted view. The problem has been created by all of a sudden decision making by our ministry at the centre. I have written to Zee news about the hectic decision-making process but they overlooked my ideas. There was no need to clamp down the lockdown and shutdowns in such a hurry without assessing the situation properly and without giving ample time to the general public to seek a safer shelter before enforcing the lockdown. Some trains and buses should have been engaged to transport all these migrant labours and the downtrodden to their native places before imposing the lockdown.
      But who listens to an unknown person who has no credentials as a political leader or a journo?

    • very sad to see the migrant trouble ,it is more pain i feel ? ….Modi will try again through the EVM machine to win the Election ?

  76. Finally Guptaji found time to write about the displaced migrants. I thought Guptaji will write only after they reach their villages. Still not a word of discontent for feku maharaj.

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