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The Coronavirus Pandemic: Why are India’s migrant workers walking home?

3 April 2020
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Why are India’s migrant workers walking home?


Listen to the 34th episode of ThoughtSpace (above) featuring Partha Mukhopadhyay, Mukta Naik and Yamini Aiyar, discussing the migrant worker crisis unfolding across the country.

The lockdown imposed by the Indian government last week has brought the country to a standstill. Simultaneously, it has created panic in the lives of India’s migrant workers and labourers. Videos and images of migrants walking home hundreds of kilometres have etched themselves in our minds. Over 20 migrant workers, including children, have lost their lives since the lockdown due to hunger, exhaustion, or in road accidents on highways. Who are these migrant workers and what is compelling them to make this arduous journey home on foot, in the absence of buses and trains? What are their vulnerabilities and were these taken into consideration when the state announced the lockdown? And are we now doing enough to alleviate their concerns, meet requirements, and ensure that they do not bear the disproportionate brunt of this lockdown?

In the second episode on the Centre for Policy Research’s series on the coronavirus pandemic, Yamini Aiyar, President & Chief Executive of CPR, speaks with Partha Mukhopadhyay, Senior Fellow at CPR, and Mukta Naik, Fellow at CPR, on the migrant worker crisis unfolding across the country. Mukhopadhyay and Naik talk about what makes the migrant worker invisible to India’s policymakers, how the state has failed to address their needs repeatedly, and how that has led to an inherent mistrust of the state among migrant workers. They recommend winning back this trust with open and honest communication, abstaining from coercive means of enforcing the lockdown, and ensuring safe passage home for migrants who want to go home.

This is the second in a series of episodes on the unfolding coronavirus pandemic in India. The first episode looked at how prepared India’s health systems are to deal with the pandemic.   Listen to the first episode here. You can read Mukhopadhyay and Naik’s opinion piece on the migrant crisis here.