Ever since the country is in the firm grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing, listening, and reading endless stories of how the migrant workers are suffering. How they are longing to go to their home towns and how they are not provided the transport, food, and shelter, etc. Heartrending stories of sordid accidents and deaths on way, workers trudging their way homewards carrying their old and incapable parents on their shoulders, women giving birth on way and so on.
These stories made good ‘masala’ for the TRP of the news channels and provided the much-needed ammo to the so-called intellectuals and politicians to whip the government for its failure to safeguard these migrant workers. They felt that the entire responsibility of these workers should be with the government.
But is it only the government’s responsibility? We as a society have no responsibility towards these migrants? These workers came to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, and so on in search of livelihood and a better life because they had no opportunities to earn their bread and butter in their native places. Did the government bring them to these cities? Were they working in government establishments only? What about the responsibility of those contractors who lured these workers to better pastures and those employers who flourished on the toil and sweat of these migrants?
Do they not have any responsibility and commitment to the wellbeing and betterment of these workers? If yes, why did they fail? Or did they deliberately leave these hapless lot to fend for themselves in this hour of crisis? Those city-dwellers who enjoyed the otherwise tasty eatables prepared and sold by these migrants, considered that they too had a social and human responsibility to them?
Had every citizen cared for each of these workers the situation would have been different. For example, take the case of the household helps. In cities, most household jobs are done by ladies from migrant communities. They were not allowed to enter the housing societies as soon as the lockdown is declared. Neither they are paid their wages. There are a good number of such sectors where the situation could be improved with little efforts and human consideration. But that did not happen.
Instead of helping such people in distress and assuring them, these so-called civil society members (or uncivilized) took to social media to criticize the government and to extend endless suggestions to the Prime Minister on how to handle this situation. “The government should have done this, that and whatnot”, but no one ever mentioned what he or she did for these workers as his/her responsibility and duty towards them as their ‘own people’.
Or was it a conspiracy of these so-called elite, rich and ‘civilized’ people to get rid of these workers to their villages and ‘rid’ their cities of their a presence so that the crowd would be reduced and the spread of coronavirus pandemic be reduced. The uncontrollable crowd of these migrant workers in Delhi, Mumbai, Secunderabad, and elsewhere only exposed this selfish mentality of the city-dwellers, the criminal inaction of the administration and apathetic attitude of the leaders in power. Those who only try to ‘sermonize’ the government, must look within and do something concrete for these hapless people or shut their mouths.