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Coronavirus | Curbs on migrants workers will worsen crisis, say activists

Sealing of borders and total lock-down will escalate panic, warn grass roots groups.

A day after the Union Minister of Home Affairs ordered that the movement of migrant workers be restricted, groups representing informal workers on Monday said the decision would lead to chaos for the workers already suffering due to the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

As the country observes a three-week lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 to contain the spread of the virus, daily wage workers have been left with no work and income forcing large groups to make their way back home, many on foot due to the ban on all public transport.

In a statement, the Working People’ Charter and Aajeevika Bureau termed the MHA’s order on Sunday “unrealistic” as it “ignores many harsh realities that workers have been persistently facing in cities, which have now been compounded several times over due to the lock-down”.

The statement said the government needed to acknowledge the situation that had compelled workers to return to their villages and that these conditions were “likely to worsen” with new advisories.

Police action

“Total sealing of borders and total lock-down will escalate panic and aggravate chaos and crowding of migrants attempting to reach their homes...There is a real danger that the order will grant unabated power into the hands of the police to physically detain or assault migrants who are merely trying to fend for themselves in this moment of crisis,” the statement read.

The groups highlighted the need for compassion in dealing with the situation, adding that the police should be directed to show restraint in their interactions with the workers. While the government has told employers to pay the workers and landlords not to collect rent for the lock-down period, the groups said the instruction needed fast-track legal aid and grievance response systems.

Union raise concerns

Trade unions also raised concerns about the condition of the workers. The Centre of India ln Trade Unions (CITU) wrote to the Prime Minister on Monday asking the government to ensure “through statutorily enforceable measures and proactive enforcement and not by just advisories, that all workers including migrant workers are not removed from their employment and are paid their wages and that they are not vacated or forced to pay rent by the house owners.”

CITU also said the Centre should coordinate with state governments to make sure no one goes hungry and that migrant workers have adequate food and shelter.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 12:23:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-curbs-on-migrants-workers-will-worsen-crisis-say-activists/article31212098.ece

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