Modi’s Man Ki Baat on migrants and poor a pure Jumla, GoI orders reveal

Indian Prime Minister’s apology to the country’s poor on the Lockdown was triggered by his poll concerns in Hindi Heartland more than social commitment. Lately, Modi government is relayed the Supreme Court’s order to the states for the upkeep of the migrant labours, now on highways to their homes, but washed its hand of the responsibilities

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Biswajit Roy
Biswajit Roy
is Consultant Editor with eNewsroom India. He reports on major news developments as well as writes political pieces on national and Bengal politics and social-cultural issues.

Corona virus apparently has globally punctured the inflated egos of many megalomaniacs. Otherwise, did we ever expect that our Prime Minister to seek kshama (pardon), particularly, from the poor for imposing 21-day-long Lockdown, which has thrown our lives completely out of gear? Have we ever heard any words of regrets from Narendra Modi on Gujarat 2002 pogrom or Notebandi 2016? But the question which remains to be answered is – what prompted him to seek public forgiveness in the latest Man Ki Baat episode? Secondly, is this a sincere, heartfelt gesture or a mere publicity stunt, something which he has undoubtedly mastered over these many years?

The images of migrant workers- with children and their luggage trudging through highways to reach their homes in far off states on being thrown out of jobs in Delhi and other major cities, are inviting bad publicity in the international media. Even the most ardent ‘Godi’ media or the institution’s lapdogs could not suppress the images and reports of thousands stranded on the Indian streets, waiting desperately at bus depots and railway stations, despite knowing that the regime had stopped all public transports, albeit abruptly. Adding to their woes was the Centre’s refusal to make arrangements for alternative transport for those stranded on the streets, fearing that it would lead to proliferation of corona virus.

According to Media reports 22 hapless migrants- are dead during this exodus, while many have fallen sick on the roads due to exhaustion, hunger and chaos. Adding to the agony and misery of these migrant labours is the police harassment and brutality inflicted on them by the police trying to stop them from crossing the inter-state borders. The videos of them being forced to hop like frogs or being showered with chemical disinfectants en masse with their children bear an uncanny resemblance to the images of old-age imported slave families. They were disturbing even for the most complacent middle class supporters of Modi-Amit Shah regime, including their echo-chambers in social media.

Nevertheless, a primary study of Modi government’s moves before and after the lockdown including the series of government orders compels one to highlight the complete indifference and utter callousness towards the plight of the migrant labours and other poor Indians in the wake of his Tughlaq-style fiat. Given the fact that most migrant labours working in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana were from UP and Bihar, it’s most likely that Modi and his minions feared loss of substantial support among the poor in the Hindi heartland Hindus. They are more concerned about BJP’s main stronghold in UP and poll-bound Bihar where the party rules with JD(U). Perhaps that arithmetic made the Prime Minister ‘apologetic’ and forced UP CM Ajay Singh Bhist to make arrangement for buses to ferry some of the migrants to their destinations. But the allegations of Bhist charging over INR 600 to ferry the workers, may be left aside for a debate later.

According to the 2017 Report of the Working Group on Migration, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, ‘migration of labour is an important factor affecting the course of socio-economic development in India as about 28.3 percent of the workforce in India are migrants’. It stated, “Migrants fuel the Indian economy by carrying human capital to regions where it is needed, and enabling the acquisition of new skills and a better standard of living.”

Given the routine, we have become rather accustomed to our Mota Bhai’s monthly monologues. Although, it is always interspersed with carefully choreographed Vox Populi, the podcast is meant only for trumpeting the glory of his imperious governance and personality cult. He has stopped meeting media, except for the few chosen sycophants since his Gujarat years.

Most of his sweeping decisions have been announced through televisions behind the back of designated authorities like the RBI in case of the demonetization. Even his cabinet members have become inconsequential. His aversion to Parliamentary democracy became evident as he declared the momentous decision for prolonged lockdown on March 24 evening, immediately after the parliament was adjourned on the day.

Watch: a migrant labour walked 350 km- Kolkata to Giridih to reach his home

Government completely ignored the Migrants    

India’s internal migrant labours, both inter-states and intra-states can’t be ignored both on the count of humanitarian and economic ground. Mostly absorbed in unorganized sectors and urban households, a huge number is engaged in agriculture and other rural work. The population is more than the official estimate of 45.14 crore since census data is a decade-old and enumerators could not reach many migrants.

According to the 2017 Report of the Working Group on Migration, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, ‘migration of labour is an important factor affecting the course of socio-economic development in India as about 28.3 percent of the workforce in India are migrants’. It stated, “Migrants fuel the Indian economy by carrying human capital to regions where it is needed, and enabling the acquisition of new skills and a better standard of living. According to Census 2011, there were 454 million migrants in India. This had risen by 139 million from 315 million in 2001 in Census 2011 and 220 million in 1991, a doubling over 1991-2011.”

Even a week after media and social media went agog on the post-lockdown plight of those people, the centre’s ‘advisory to the states on quarantine of migrants’ on March 31 had no mention of government’s role in ensuring food and shelter including medical facilities for the poor who can’t afford it, after losing their livelihoods and homes in big cities.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the biggest source states, followed closely by Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal. The major destination states are Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

However, the annexure to the Ministry of Home Affairs order no. 40-3/2020-D 24.3.2020, the day Modi declared the lockdown, it did not mention any dos and don’ts for the government agencies regarding stranded people including migrant labours.

Even a week after media and social media went agog on the post-lockdown plight of those people, the centre’s ‘advisory to the states on quarantine of migrants’ on March 31 had no mention of government’s role in ensuring food and shelter including medical facilities for the poor who can’t afford it, after losing their livelihoods and homes in big cities.

It only stressed on the proliferation of the virus, which can be caused by the migrant workers during their journey and after reaching home. “Migrant workers from peri-urban and rural parts of the country who migrate to large cities constitute a sizable segment of urban population across the country. During outbreak of a communicable disease or social distancing measures as being undertaken for Covid-19 pandemic, such populations tend to return back to their homes. In such a scenario, the resultant congregations of migrant workers in bus stations/state borders may make them susceptible to Covid-19 infection. Further such exposed individuals may later become infected and carry this infection to far flung rural localities. Also it would be difficult to track them and their contacts,” reads the official statement released by the centre.

 The Health Ministry advisory on April 1 asked the states to follow the directives laid down by the Apex Court. But the centre has clearly washed its hands in this issue – caring for the poor migrant workers stranded on the streets. If the advisory offers any glimpse into the Leviathan’s mind.

It further ordered, “The migrant workers will remain at their regular place of work/local residence within the city. They will not be evacuated either by their employer/landlord. Action to this effect and to address other related issues will be taken by local administration as per advisories being issued by Ministry of Home Affairs.” Ironically, by the time this order was formulated, most of the landlords and employers have got rid of their troubles, who are now left stranded on the streets!

SC orders to help the migrants

It was only after some public interest litigations was filed in Supreme Court and the highest judiciary intervened to stop the migrants but also asked the state government to make arrangements for their upkeep while dealing with them humanly. The Health Ministry advisory on April 1 asked the states to follow the directives laid down by the Apex Court. But the centre has clearly washed its hands in this issue – caring for the poor migrant workers stranded on the streets. If the advisory offers any glimpse into the Leviathan’s mind.

It said: “The Hon’ble Supreme Court of lndia while disposing the Writ petitions No. 468/2020 & 469/2020 in public interest for redressal of grievances of migrant laborers in different parts of country has given the following directions: i) The migrant workers in Relief camps/shelter homes should be provided adequate medical facilities besides proper arrangements for food, clean drinking water and sanitation. ii) The trained counselor and/or community group leaders belonging to all faiths will visit the relief camps/shelter homes and deal with any consternation that the migrants might be going through.”

It also mentioned: “The anxiety and fear of the migrants should be understood by the police and other authorities and they should deal with the migrants in a humane manner. The state governments/union territories should Endeavour to engage volunteers along with the police to supervise the welfare activities of the migrants and all concerned to appreciate the trepidation of the poor men, women and children and treat them with kindness.”

Biswajit Roy
Biswajit Roy
is Consultant Editor with eNewsroom India. He reports on major news developments as well as writes political pieces on national and Bengal politics and social-cultural issues.

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1 COMMENT

  1. While in lockdown and stay-at-home, I penned an e-book titled

    CONQUERING THE CORONA? (Three short stories and a humour-sprinkled essay).

    This has been published by leading names.

    Now, based on my experience in conducting engagement activities for more than 1,00,000 children, of class three and above, from 290 schools, in 15 years, I am working on an e-book temporarily-titled as

    STAY AT HOME, YET BEAT THE LOCKDOWN BLUES
    (For the restless kids).

    My favourite quote, these days, has been

    ISOLATE yourself or you might have to regret why I-SO-LATE?.

    Just felt like sharing this information.

    Stay safe.

    Regards.

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