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Home / India News / Govt: No data on migrants’ deaths during lockdown

Govt: No data on migrants’ deaths during lockdown

india Updated: Sep 14, 2020 23:54 IST
Anisha Dutta
Anisha Dutta

New Delhi: The Centre told Parliament on Monday that no data is available on the number of migrant workers who lost their lives during the 68-day lockdown enforced on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, but assured the House that it has acted to mitigate their hardship.

At least 10 million migrant workers left the cities and returned home to the countryside in states such as West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh in the aftermath of the lockdown.

On Monday, the labour ministry’s response was sought in the Lok Sabha to a question whether the government was aware that a number of migrants lost their lives during their return home; the questioner sought state-wide details of the deaths and wanted to know “whether the Government has provided any compensation/economic assistance to the victims’ family.”

The labour ministry that no such data has been maintained; it added that the question of compensation did not arise in the absence of recorded data. It also said no data was available on job losses among migrant workers since the pandemic’s outbreak.

“In order to mitigate the financial crisis of the migrant workers and protect them against the economic disruptions due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and country-wide lockdown, the Central Government has taken numerous measures to provide them financial assistance, food packages, ration and other benefits,” the labour ministry added.

On May 30, Hindustan Times reported that almost 80 deaths took place on board Shramik Special trains (meant for stranded migrant workers and their families) between May 9 and May 27, citing data from the Railway Protection Force.

The labour ministry also said more than 10.4 million migrants had returned to their home states; the highest number of returnees headed home to Uttar Pradesh (3.24 million) followed by Bihar (1.5 million) and Rajasthan (1.3 million). It added that Indian Railways operated 4,611 Shramik Special trains and they ferried 6.3 million migrants to destinations in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and other states.

The railway ministry said last month that many migrants have begun returning to the places where they worked, adding that this indicates economic activity is picking up after India began easing lockdown restrictions.

“The unplanned lockdown created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The BJP {Bharatiya Janata Party} government has shunned its basic responsibility of not even knowing who bore the maximum brunt of the lockdown. Their response indicates their continued callousness towards the poor. What is worse is that there is still no announcement of any cash support or universalisation of rations,” said Rajendran Narayanan, an assistant professor at Azim Premji University.

The labour ministry said states and Union territories were told to take adequate steps to streamline the migration of workers to mitigate their hardship.

“The States/UTs have been advised to implement the advisory guidelines by quickly gearing up their labour law enforcement machinery and ensuring statutory compliance by all the stakeholders which could provide migrant workers much needed help to mitigate the financial crisis and empower them to deal with the pandemic. The States/UTs have also been advised to maintain updated data of the migrant workers to facilitate the administration to extend benefits of the welfare schemes of the Government to the migrant workers.”

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