ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Elusive Home

Do Indian states have the political will to make the return migrants feel at “home”?

In India, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding along with the health calamity ever since the lockdown was announced more than two months ago. A despondent mass of migrant workers is trudging their way back “home,” forced to disregard official restrictions of maintaining physical distance and, thus, rendered more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. While, previously, there were efforts to enforce arbitrary restrictions on their remigration, without having any strategies of containing them in their urban locations in place, now there is a belated decision to run Shramik special trains even as the contagion is on a rising curve. However, not only does the process of travel registration lack clarity, but the travel itself involves jostling for space in trains that are for no apparent reason making circuitous journeys for as many as 60 hours in the peak heat of May. With paucity of food and water and having already undergone prolonged, untold hardships, many are failing to make it to their destination.

The questions that should provoke our conscience at this brazen display of the state’s willy-nilly handling of the workers’ issue are: Who are these migrants? A demographic category, or an economic entity? In being a demographic category, they may have proven their worth as a vote bank, but that worth does not translate while rewarding, let alone recognising, their “labour” in the production process of the broader economy. For these poor workers, who have been living hand-to-mouth even in their pre-lockdown days, the lockdown exposed their precariousness to the larger world. The sudden suspension of all works and basic services due to the imposition of the lockdown by the state in an authoritarian manner has left them helpless without the required state support. But have they ever really had a “state” that included them in its development process?

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Updated On : 23rd Dec, 2020

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