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May Day in times of pandemic: A long march for Indian migrant workers

Here's a look at the status of thousands of migrant workers amid the global pandemic and also the measures announced for their welfare

Labour Day | Coronavirus | Lockdown

Kanishka Gupta  |  New Delhi 

Thousands of migrant workers are left stranded at the borders across the country due to lockdown, even on a day which is observed every year to pay tribute to the contribution of workers across the world. Yes, it's May Day or International Workers' Day.

Here's a look at the status of thousands of migrant workers amid the global pandemic and also the measures announced for their welfare.

Let’s begin with some good news . flagged its first special train to ferry 1,200 stranded migrants from Lingampally in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand.

"The 24 coach train started at 4.50 am today (Friday)," RPF DG Arun Kumar told PTI. It's the only train to be deployed so far, he added. Incidentally Friday is also the international

The global tally of Covid-19 patients has so far crossed the 3 million-mark. However, meeting the constant demand of testing kits and other medical equipment seems to be difficult, at least in the near future.

No doubt, the labourers/ migrant workers seem to be among those most affected.

Here's a report released on Wednesday, in which the International Labour Organization estimated a 4.5 per cent drop in working hours (about 130 million full-time jobs) across the globe in January-March 2020, compared to the previous quarter.

However, the worst is yet to come in the second quarter in which a 10.5 per cent slump is expected in working hours, equaling 305 million jobs, compared to October-December 2019.

Speaking of India, despite an extensive of over a month, the country’s tally of cases is increasing and it has reported more than 35,000 cases so far. There are even talks about an extension of the which has already caused turbulence in the lives of thousands of the workers.

A Business Standard correspondent went to a relief camp in Sarai Kale Khan and spoke to some migrant workers.

Before this we did come across news of migrant workers, first thronging the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border and then flooding Bandra station in Mumbai, in an attempt to reach their homes in far-flung areas, notwithstanding the rules.

No doubt, the centre government has created relief camps for them, and provides them with food and shelter but apart from this nothing major seems to have come in picture which could help them cope with the situation.

On Thursday, the Union made it clear that no separate passes are required for inter-state movement of trucks — those carrying goods or returning after delivery — during the ongoing lockdown and licence of the driver is enough. This means, all the stranded drivers at the borders could now move with a little ease.

In one of our recent podcasts, Stranded migrants, students can now go home, but process is not that easy! we did talk about how people can now travel back to their home towns according to the new guidelines.

But since, the government has permitted only the roadways, except the special train we talked about, to carry out the transportation process, state governments are citing logistical challenges in transporting thousands of people by road especially in the summer heat.

They said both arranging buses in a large number and ensuring the norms of social distancing during the long travel is quite difficult.

That apart, for the first time in around one-and-a-half centuries, Indian workers will have to work for 72 hours in a week (up from 48 hours a week) as five states — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab — have amended the Factories Act of 1948 through executive orders to effect this change.

However, these states have mentioned that the move is temporary in order to boost the production at factories and mines which has otherwise been affected due to the nationwide lockdown in view of the pandemic.

First Published: Fri, May 01 2020. 13:40 IST