Its May 1st of the year 2020, a day dedicated to the workers and labourers. The International Workers Day is meant to remember and pay respect to the workers who have always been an inevitable part of our lives making it convenient to live. But, considering the fact that the world is facing one of the worst crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic – the Government of India has imposed a nationwide lockdown which has massively impacted the WORKERS, ‘HAPPY Workers Day’ is a greeting in question.
India has won appreciations from countries across the world for taking proactive measures in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown is the most prominent among them. Although the lockdown is of high importance in the present time, lives affected by it are important as well. Almost every city in India is facing the issue of stranded labourers and providing them with proper food and shelter is one of the major challenges the civic authorities are dealing with. As a matter of fact, the Government of India had announced extra free ration supply, shelter, financial assistance and more such grants for the workers but most of it is for those registered and are ration cardholders.
The Plight of Workers amidst lockdown
There have been various incidences across the country where thousands of migrant workers thronged the streets, railway stations and city borders in an effort to go back home. But, due to the strict implementation of the lockdown, it was merely an exercise in futility. However, what needs to be addressed is why they did so?
These migrant labourers are one of the most vulnerable parts of the unorganised sector that constitutes around 80 percent of the country’s workforce. Following the implementation of the lockdown, malls, construction work, public transport, delivery of goods, domestic help work, all came to a halt leaving behind the workers with no works, money, food and even no shelter for some. The closing of the borders and strict restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles seeded fear among the migrant workers living away from their family and loved ones. Possibly, a reason why thousands of them took to streets, stations and the city borders.
With bags perched on their heads and babies in their arms, walking on the road to cover hundreds of kilometres on foot, with no food and water, to reach back to their home towns was a common sight a few days back. Many reached and many just couldn’t make it. The scenario was evident enough to display the fear among the poor labourers who took bold decisions impulsively due to no light of guidance in sight.
Furthermore, the movement of labourers out of the cities have created an urgent need for the government, city corporations, industries, factories to rethink and devise strategies to return back to business once the lockdown is over. The pandemic has already been hard-hitting for the economy and now the reverse migration of the workers has made it even more difficult for the businesses to resume in the near future.
Role of authorities
There is a need for governments and civic bodies to understand that announcing grants are not enough. Reaching out to these people, identifying their problems, talking to them and spreading positive awareness rather than fear should be incorporated in the course of action. Our metro cities are built on the backs of these workers and ensuring their safety and meeting their requirements is the responsibility of the authorities.
Moreover, the Centre and the state governments should brainstorm ways to bring back stranded labourers to their respective states and ensure their needs are being answered to. These workers must be made aware of the significance of quarantining to cast out fear in them and to gain their cooperation so that they themselves opt to quarantine once they reach their respective states.
Role of citizens
It is not only the government responsible for the issue but as these workers being an indispensable part of the society we the citizens also have a crucial role to play. However, it can be seen in many cities across the country that people are coming forward to help the poor and the needy by providing them with cooked food or other essential goods. Also, there are NGOs and religious groups stepping up to aid the poor in times of crisis. At an individual level too, it is a part of our social responsibility to help as ‘a simple step to share with the ones in need can be of great help to the one in need’.
It can be summarised that the ‘Workers Day’ can be meaningful if actually the workers can be made to feel relieved by extending supporting hands amidst this time of crisis that has shaken the entire country but most of all those poor workers who are striving for food, water, shelter almost every day.