Impact of Covid on Migrant Workers: The corona virus or COVID-19 has affected the world’s economy in a devastating way. The economies of several companies got affected and were in a depression. This in turn paved way to another concern, without earning profits, how will the employers pay salaries to the workers. This issue made most of the companies cut the salary, and also fire some of the workforce in order to manage the company’s assets efficiently and effectively.
This COVID-19 pandemic critically affected the migrant workers. They could not move from one place to other because of the nationwide lockdown imposed by the PM. The transportation was also shutdown which forced the migrant workers to walk hundreds of miles to their homes. Some of the migrant workers even died during their long travel.
The population of about 100 million internal migrant workers, who are estimated to form 20% of India’s workforce, are the worst sufferers in the unplanned lockdown that started on March 25. They are stranded in the cities and other locations of work, without wages, money and food. The images of migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their villages during the lockdown brought this into the public. This was a topic which was to be discussed soon or else the daily earners will be left with no money to survive. So, this was brought into attention.
There are various categories of migrant labourers in India. Among those, one of the categories was the seasonal workers working in agricultural sector. These workers were the ones who used to migrate between different cities and states during certain seasons. Most of the workers belonged to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe groups. This made them even more prone to running out of money during this pandemic.
In order to fully gauge the harshness of the blow that has befallen on these agricultural labouring classes, the pandemic has to be situated within the context of the pre COVID-19 economic conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic crisis comes at a time when the Indian economy was already reeling under an extended period of stagnation, and fall in demand. The slump in consumption was most evident in rural India in the months leading up to the pandemic, all through last year with the same trend continuing well into this year, showing no signs of recovery. This demand crisis has been attributed prominently to the fall in days of employment available to manual workers along with a slowing down of the wage rates. Research shows that real wage growth for rural labourers plunged from 14.6 per cent in 2014 to a mere 1.1 per cent in 2019. Women labourers fared even worse receiving four fifths of the wages that were paid out to men in the harvest and post-harvest agricultural operations.
Due to Covid-19 and the fall in oil prices millions of migrant workers toiling in the Gulf countries are facing a crisis. The crisis will manifest in home countries like India foremost by the workers’ reduced ability to keep earning and remitting money, says Dilip Ratha, lead economist, migration and remittances, World Bank.
This pandemic which led to the nationwide lockdown has made one thing clear that either the migrant workers are unemployed or are waiting for something positive to happen. Most of the workers live in rural areas but work in cities. The Government reported that even if the food supply is not taking place, there is enough food grain which is stocked up in the FCI god owns to feed the poor for more than a year and a half.
These migrant labourers who are actually been like trapped here after this pandemic outbreak are those people to be helped out. We can do it by raising campaign for them for the purpose of providing them with rations, focusing on food, hygiene and internet connectivity for workers living in dorms. Because it’s never been more critical to be able to communicate with family back home or to call for help. Raising funds to donate essentials like masks, sanitizers and gloves is another way to help them in this situation where they have no way to earn money. Actually, they had only 2 choice either walk home or die hungry. So, home to many migrant labourers could be set up in relief camps where he can implement safer social distancing as well.
– Akshara Kamath
(Centre for Rights of differently Abled)