Sunday, 29 May, 2022
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I walked with India’s migrant labourers. More than angry, they are hurt with Modi

Migrant labourers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have one question for Modi — why didn’t you take care of us during lockdown.

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For the first time in the last six years, India’s poor are not paying attention to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words. And the announcement of a stimulus package worth Rs 20 lakh crore hasn’t helped either.“Hum keede makode hain, humein marne ke liye chhod diya hai (We are seen as vermin and have been left to die),” a migrant worker tells me near Lucknow.

For the last two weeks, I have been meeting and talking to migrant labourers walking home in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They have a common complaint. PM Modi should have ordered landlords to not force labourers to vacate. He should have told factory owners to help employees. Why didn’t he? Modi should have also told us in advance that there will be a lockdown, they say.

Interestingly, the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar gets a harsher rap from the migrant labourers than the Yogi Adityanath one in Uttar Pradesh. Nitish Kumar has deceived us, Upkar Singh tells me at the UP-Bihar border transit centre. But the biggest disappointment, clear from my conversations with the workers, is PM Modi. More than being angry, they are hurt.

The announcements of packages, trains, food haven’t been able to stop the migrants from hitting the road on foot. They are choosing to walk hundreds of kilometres rather than rely on Modi’s words.

Also read: Of course the migrant labourers will go back home, for that is where their lives are: Gulzar

Modi and the pulse of India

It is not that India’s poor doubt the ability of PM Modi to handle the Covid-crisis. But they say their big brother and father-like figure has abandoned them on the roads.

Labourers have been hit by both the coronavirus pandemic and the strict lockdown. Planes were sent for the rich, but the poor have to walk. But that’s not the only brutality they are facing. In Bhopta village, Gopalganj, labourers told me, even when there were no cases, the police were beating them for going to buy essentials. What is our fault, they ask. We are atmanirbhar — self-reliant — as PM Modi wants us to be.

Before the coronavirus, Modi was seen as an able administrator. He told Indians he was doing exactly what they wanted — be it demonetisation (getting rid of black money), dilution of Article 370 (opening up Kashmir and taking care of Pakistan’s plans), or criminalising triple talaq (‘saving’ India’s women). Even the Citizenship (Amendment) Act made his followers happy.

Modi was the master of understanding the people’s pulse. But this image has clearly taken a hit with the lockdown and pictures of migrant labourers walking home.

Also read: From death to life in 72 hours — my 10 days on the road covering Covid through UP, Bihar

Tainted image

Taalithalis and diyas can only do so much to boost public morale. From March to May, the celebration and the bravado to beat the virus has lessened significantly. Even the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package hasn’t lifted too many spirits.

The videos and pictures of migrant labourers are hard to ignore. People say, there was a simple solution. Modi should have talked to the states and the migrants should have been supplied food and some money in their accounts. But even trains were provided to the labourers after a month. The talk of atmanirbhar Bharat appears hollow — for migrant labourers, it just means walking home alone.

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

Every government sees a crisis during its tenure. The Congress faced charges of corruption. Chandrababu Naidu faced the anger of farmers. Lalu Prasad Yadav faced the anger of the middle class for neglecting education and trade.

But for India’s majority, Modi’s image has rarely been tainted by episodes in the past — earthquake or riot or slide in economy.

That is changing now.

Views are personal.

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  1. Atmanirbhar means walk on your own. Don’t depend on the government to help you in anyway for any help. 20 lakh crore sounds good to hear like to 15 lakhs to every bank account. This money will be taken away by big business and converted to NPA. For the common man it means nothing.

  2. Nehru,Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indra Gandhi,Charan Singh & Chandrasekar were P.M.s born in U.P. Rajiv Gandhi, Vajpayee & Narendra Modi were P.Ms elected from U.P. Inspite of the longest regime, why U.P. stands last among the States? Incredible India ! President of India from U.P. & Chief Minister of U.P. must also help to UPlift the downtrodden. Developed Indian States thrived with the physical work of migrant hard workers. They have not brought Corona from abroad by plane or ship. For no fault of them they walked miles like Gandhiji, as there was no job and no income. Let us all hope for a fruitful New Deal and New Economic Policy of Government (s)

  3. Enough of blame game, Govt should bring industries and jobs back and give people means of earning to stop this unwanted migration. Ultimately the question remains the same even if special trains takes these workers back to their states. How they will survive without work. And government should come up with solid planes to control population explosion and revamping the sick health care system of the country. This is an eye opener so better decision makers wake up in time. Jai Hind

  4. Enough of blame game, Govt should bring industries and jobs back and give people means of earning to stop this unwanted migration. Ultimately the question remains the same even if special trains takes these workers back to their states. How they will survive without work. And government should come up with solid planes to control population explosion and revamping the sick health care system of the country. This is an eye opener so better decision makers wake up in time. Jai Hind

  5. Nice article. Glad that you helped the suffering. God shall surely remember your good deeds. Keep reporting the true news. Opinions vary. Surely not the time for politics. More journalists with kind heart may God raise up. Thanks ma’am Jyoti and team . God Bless your good work.

  6. Before bashing the writer for writing an honest article, I want to ask how many of you actually have people of your own facing what the migrant workers are facing right now? My relatives have been stranded off outside their home state for 2 whole months and now finally they got on a train and made to take 22 hrs long journey without any food being provided on the train. Why only the people outside India deserve to hop on a plane and come home? Government should have done a better job! That’s it!

  7. Blind worshippers have very strong rationalising prowess. Apply your own logic and question decisions of govt iro of whether it comes from A or B or C. A country where people go mad feeding milk to stone idol of Lord Ganesha Individual worship is not amusing. After all we are country of uneducated literate.

  8. Ms Jyoti, can I ask politely… what next… You can prepare an exhaustive plan now and submit what to do next. Being sarcastic and non-benevolent does not help anyone. You have had your brownie points, fine… then, what is the solution. Is it that the state has failed, or as a citizen we have failed. Please bear in mind, these poor people are very sensitive, innocent, and are quite vulnerable, therefore, it is our duty to help them. By involving into sadomachochist melancholy, solution does not come. Thank God, ours is not an autocratic state, else, these notions would pervade like a castlebox.

  9. Modi used to be a hero, now he is zero.
    Trying to pass the buck to the state governments – will not work.
    Try for some remorse, Riddle, that is your last remaining hope.

  10. Modi and BJP always think about elections. How to deceive citizens and win elections. They know very well that migrants are a small fraction of the electorate who are serious voters. Maneka Gandhi, herself stated BJP’S ideology during 2019 elections, why should we help someone who doesn’t vote for us.

  11. This article is written by a Khan Market Jerk Off. A dyed in the wool leftist ChiCom.
    The article reeks of the stench of bias & hatred against the honest, plural & highly capable leadership India is fortunate to have.

  12. Did you ask the migrants what they think of PappuG & MummyG?
    What do migrants think of about PappuG’s video conference with famed economists?

  13. If the learned author of this article thinks hyping the plight of migrant labor will dethrone Modi ji in next election , then he/she may be day dreaming. More than 60 % of Indian do NOT form the part of that “class ‘. According to many studies and articles on poverty in India , The number of poor comprise 35 to 40 % of population, thanks to growth since 1991, when the strong hold and monopoly of a particular New Delhi based family on the seat of power reduced and subsequently vanished. Majority of Migrant labours have moved out of big cities are those who leave their home in harvesting /sowing season for 40-50days work in prosperous parts of India. A big majority of Those with permanent jobs in industries and shops , and those who remain self employed with skills like painters, electricians, plumbers,,Drivers , belonging many others trades , — are very much in the cities where they were prior to lock down. This class of poor very well understand they have to be there where JOBS ARE.
    Agreed , those migrant labours who left due to non-availability of jobs , or due to panic, or due to their habit of coming and going during sowing and harvesting seasons should /.could have been given some support by those who employ them or Government or NGOs. But it clearly establishes it is not sole responsibility of central govt. Role of state Govts. has been very pathetic. Mr.Nitish was even not ready to accept even the young students stranded in Kota , who were not be on doles of state Government. .
    Modi Government will be assessed on over all performance – How it faces Corona panoramic. How it was able to motivate and use scarce resources to save lives of people, specially when there are/were not past precedents. Figures of Indian number of Corona cases, Number of fatalities viz-a-viz other countries ,keeping in view our total population , population density and availability of medical facilities as compared with other developed and developing countries.

    It is not one journalist starts the rant and all other similarly indoctrinated repeat the narrative /Shows. Keep patience , there are three and half years when India comes into election mode. There will be enough to criticize and hope BJP and Modi s supporter will give suitable replies. No person or party just run away and leave seat of power to its contestants “UNCONTESTED”

  14. The poor & unfortunate migrants are aware that the Govt has done what it could for them. There is no anger …….stop reporting your personal opinion & bias as news.

  15. The slave mentality of these people and belief in fate will only help Modi. They will vote Modi again as she is seen as a savarna. The Congress on the other hand treated them like humans, something they dont have the capability to appreciate.

  16. More than likely the author “walked with the migrants” for 5 minutes and spent the rest of the day driving back to Delhi in the comfort of her air conditioned Toyota Cruiser, sipping a chilled beer, writing this article.

  17. An intellectual discussion with the returning migrant labor, concludes in the hurt against Modi.
    Journalists have theirs own convictions or are made to follow the convictions of their paymasters, and then they do it in such crude fashion.
    Unless dignity in use of language logic in thought process returns more and more people are likely to avoid the media.
    It is quite obvious particularly on the TV talk shows, that other than, Tanvir, Poonawals, Nishants, and some abusive defenders of different ideologies and faiths nobody seems to be available. Night after Night when ones sees the same faces one wonders who is paying home ?
    More so when the format of debate is like the banned COCK-FIGHT.

  18. This is really funny. In this world no one is satisfied and considering India is 1/7th of human population of this planet Earth, how can you even imagine that everyone will be happy or satisfied. Stop this propaganda of hate and blame at this crucial moment of our century. Enough!

  19. I did not walk with migrant labourers and honestly admit that I don’t know what they think about Modi. I, for sure, share their pain and curse the govts (both Centre and state) for not making proper arrangements for their return. I do believe that the migrant labourers will never forget the misery they went through and teach the political class (including Modi/BJP) a lesson in the upcoming elections.
    However, I do know that Ms. Yadav is and always has been a Modi-baiter. Her earlier article on #BoisLockerRoom unnecessarily dragged in the BJP IT cell and levelled absolutely baseless accusations against it. Now the Delhi Police has clarified that it was a prank by a teenage girl who posed as a boy. The BJP IT cell had absolutely nothing to do with it.
    However, for some journalists and “intellectuals”, peddling their agenda and ideology is of paramount importance rather than staying true to facts and data.

  20. Blaming everything on Modi isn’t right. Yes the central govt didn’t took into account about this mass exodus which followed after the lockdown, but it was the responsibility of the states which should have ensured the safety and food for them. They should have come forward and appealed to them to not leave behind all of it, have some patience, help is on its way. But they failed. This migration didn’t just happened overnight, it took years for these labourers to be where they are right now. So expecting any govt functionary to bring them back overnight is completely wrong. Instead of blaming everything on the centre, if you guys would have spent even just a lil bit of your time appealing to the masses to stay where they are, this wouldn’t have happened. Media is busy with showing the exodus and making money out it.

  21. Your views may be personal right! Aren’t you a citizen of India? In these kinds of calamities as a responsible citizens , educated can you not think positive & support the government schemes & make these migrants who are mostly illiterates to understand & help them the benefits the government announced.

    Last 70 years why crores still remained as illiterates , wasn’tt your responsibility to educate the illiterates.

    What is your contribution to ensure the citizens are maintaining social distance.

    Why didn’t you question the politicians & bureaucrats givern the country ethically all these years. Give freebees ,keep them uneducated for vote banks.
    Now you people have views shame the people woh have kept India poor all these years.
    Media what was it doing all these years when crores were looted out of honest tax payers money?
    Kindly be positive trying write your opinion is not going change the mass mind I reelecting Modi in 2024.
    Help Modi should conficicate from all the corrupt people who looted the country & develop the nation.

    Please note India is actually not POOR it is made poor by providing freebees & not education & creating opportunities for better living.

  22. Why didn’t he? The answer is simple: Modi focused on what interests him – further islamophobia, crack down on dissent, amass enormous amounts of non-scrutinized funds, help his corporate friends, gut labour and environmental laws, install major surveillance apparatus.
    If any one is naive enough to believe that the government is incompetent, think again. It has done very well what it set out to do – rest is collateral damage.

  23. The migrants are smart. They see a stupid person and give that person the answer they want to hear. If you see how HINDUS helped everybody with everything at their disposal will ensure the migrants will see the difference between communal congrass loudspeakers and MODIJI’S SUPPORTERS .

  24. Instead of Modi, Jyoti Yadav, a Congress paid jerno should ask the state governments to help migrant workers. But as a Congress rule she has to accuse Modi as Pappu does on daily basis. These stupid jernos have no clue about how to boost Congress’s chances of come back. Like a broken record they continue to abuse Modi and anti-national ThePrint continues to give them the needed platform to sustain the propaganda.

  25. 135 crores people , it is very difficult to find solution for each. God is helpless. How, PM will find solution. I am confused.

  26. 135 crores people , it is very difficult to find solution for each. God is helpless. How, PM will find solution. I am confused.

  27. Ahhh…here we are again.

    Modi has lost people’s support yet again, this time because of Covid-19 crisis, you know, a global pandemi that happens every year and something that Nehru ji faced with great competence.

    Once upon a time, Modi was facing people’s anger due to rising “intolerance”, then Rafale scam exposed his “true colours”, then CAA showed us how cruel he was and now Wuhan virus has exposed Modi’s “incompetence”.

    This time Modi is going down, keep your fingers crossed you intelligent, woke hipsters.

  28. Before the coronavirus, Modi was seen as an able administrator. He told Indians he was doing exactly what they wanted — be it demonetisation (getting rid of black money), dilution of Article 370 (opening up Kashmir and taking care of Pakistan’s plans), or criminalising triple talaq (‘saving’ India’s women). Even the Citizenship (Amendment) Act made his followers happy.

  29. Worst form of governence that is on display. The top leadership has no clue of the ground realities and the hardships of the common man who is idly sitting in his house trying to make some sense of the series of blunders that the government of the day is inflicting upon the nation each passing day. It’s mostly clear that the government had no plan of action before going into the lockdown and even after 50 odd days has no plan how to get out of it.

    Self employed people like me are getting restless and agitated at the notion that instead of solving the problems at hand, this crisis is being used for grand standing and political brownie points.

    I wish these politicians be made to live the life of an ordinary person just for a day; they won’t be able to get past it.

  30. Jyoti ji, dont be so jealous of Modi and indulge in wishful kite flying , the same sort of reports came out in 2019 before the May elections, the result Modi won with a thumping majority. No one understands the pulse of the poor better than Modi. You Print guys keep ranting about Modi, your efforts will come to zilch. Like Modi said, My image was not not made by the Khan Market Gang, his popularity is not sliding, its at over 90% lady!!

  31. Again a rabid anti modi rhetoric via a modi hating medium THE PRINT. This reporter is delusional. During an unexpected calamity and the immediate lockdown thereafter, even though the infection was contained in a great manner, there is bound to be collateral damage. Think and publish. Instead of supporting the government you are only highlitung the negatives.

  32. Another paid hack, no wonder journalists have lost respect in the community. I wonder how many of such one sided pen pushers stay employed in a recessionary economy.

  33. Jyoti Yadav, Shivam Vij and Zainab Sikandar…….. these opinion makers are using the pandemic and migrant crisis to change the narrative slowly and subtly ….one step at a time …. one piece at a time……
    i was nt so much into politics . But post 2019, after seeing news web portals, it is becoming more and more apparent that how journalists actually become opinion makers….
    lets see if the trio succeed…

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