Use Central Forces: 2 Groups’ Petition to PMO for Migrants’ Relief

The petition asks for deployment of the “same resources of the central government as would any natural disaster.”

2 min read
Migrant workers from Madhya Pradesh walk along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, following the coronavirus lockdown, in Palghar on 30 March. Image used for representational purposes.

With the coronavirus lockdown continuing to lead to hardships for migrant workers across the country, a non-profit working with migrant communities and a labour rights group, have come up with a petition to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), asking the Centre to "fulfil its constitutional obligations and facilitate the safe and dignified movement of millions of migrants attempting to reach home by using central forces, facilities, and resources."

The petition has been put out by the Aajevika Bureau and the Working Peoples' Charter, and said to be signed by over 4,000 people. The two groups have asked for the deployment of the "same resources of the central government as would any natural disaster."

"The safe transportation requirements of this magnitude are only possible if the forces and facilities at the disposal of the Government of India are immediately deployed to bolster the grossly inadequate efforts being currently left to inter-state coordination, with meagre logistical support in providing safety, food and water to migrants on the move... The National Disaster Relief Force along with other central forces should be included in the process of managing this humanitarian crisis...," the two groups said.

Calling the current response strategy, which has included the running of 'shramik' trains since early May, inadequate, they stated, "... Little has been done or can be done with the ‘shramik’ trains arrangement so as to match supply to demand. There are just too many migrants and incidentally too few trains, marred with extreme lack of coordination and mismanagement."

“It is vital that the overall well-being of migrant workers is safeguarded as they attempt to reach home without jobs and savings. This includes emergency income transfers for a certain period and an urgent provision for employment and rehabilitation.”
Aajevika Bureau and the Working Peoples’ Charter

Among the signatories of the petition listed are former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung, former Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen, and for UGC chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat, among others.

The petition comes at a time when migrant workers are still facing a hard time getting back home despite the arrangement of special 'shramik' trains since early May. Since the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus was imposed on 25 March, many stranded migrated, left without jobs and income, have chosen to go back to their hometowns, often walking back hundreds of kilometres, as public transportation remained shut. Many have also died due to exhaustion and in road accidents.

Recently, a harrowing video emerged from Muzaffarpur station in Bihar where a toddler is seen standing near the dead body of a woman, playing with the blanket that covered her. The deceased was travelling in a 'shramik' train from Ahmedabad to her house in Bihar's Katihar. Due to lack of employment, she along with her two children, Arman and Rehmat, decided to return home.

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