Lockdown policy triggers homebound wave of migrant workers in India

EYEAFRICA TV: New Delhi, India: The countrywide lockdown policy taken by India since February 24 has spurred a wave of migrant workers heading back to their hometown.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the entire country was going into a 21-day lockdown on Feb. 24 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

There are many migrant workers in the industrial areas in Gurgaon, Noida, and Manesar around New Delhi, capital of India. They can only do casual work on a daily basis. Due to the restriction policy, many factories have been shut down, depriving them of income sources.

“I’m coming back home from Manesar. There is no other means of transportation for me to choose. I have no food to eat and basically have nothing. I face many problems,” said Depp, a migrant worker.

“The government said that they would help us. But after two or three days passed, we haven’t received anything,” said Mohan, another migrant worker.

These migrant workers earn a meager income, capable of sustaining their life for only one or two days. Some of them have their families’ company. Without a job, it is extremely difficult to survive in a big city, so they have to return to their hometown.

Tens of thousands of returnees have flooded into the New Delhi bus station, and the government has temporarily extended bus hours to take them home. But for some places that have not yet opened to traffic, the migrant workers can only go back home on foot. To help them return safely and smoothly, Uttar Pradesh alone plans to dispatch 1,000 buses to transport migrant workers in New Delhi back home.

Some volunteers have brought food and water along the highways connecting New Delhi and neighboring states for the returnees.

“If the returnees are in need, we’ll lead a hand to help them with everything we have. We’ll insist doing the work. We’ll do everything we can to let these people have food to eat while on their way back home,” said Keshav, an Indian volunteer.

But some experts pointed out that the coronavirus epidemic is currently at a critical period in India, and the return of a large number of migrant workers is bound to amplify the risk of spreading the disease. According to statistics, at least 150,000 people may return home in Uttar Pradesh alone.

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