Parliament monsoon session: No data available on migrant deaths during lockdown, says Centre
There is no data available or maintained on the number of migrant workers who lost their lives during the 68-day nationwide lockdown restrictions that were enforced from March 25, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, the Centre informed Parliament on Monday.
The response by the labour ministry was on a question raised in Lok Sabha seeking information on whether the Government was aware that a number of migrant workers lost their lives during their return to their hometowns and if so, the details of the same, state-wise. It further added, “Whether the Government has provided any compensation/economic assistance to the victims’ families.”
The labour ministry stated that no such data was maintained and it further added that the question of compensation does not arise in view of no recorded data available.
It also said there is no data on the job losses among migrant workers since the pandemic. The labour ministry said “no such data is maintained” to a question seeking a response on whether the government has done any assessment of the job losses among migrant workers due to the Covid-19 crisis.
“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 nationwide lockdown, the Central Government has taken numerous measures to provide them financial assistance, food packages ration and other benefits,” the labour ministry said.
On May 30, Hindustan Times had reported there have been almost 80 deaths on board the Shramik Special trains (for stranded migrant workers) between May 9 and May 27, according to data from the Railway Protection Force. The ages of the dead ranged from 4 to 85. The data also mentioned the co-morbidities or accidents that caused the deaths in a few cases.
The labour ministry also informed that more than 1.04 crore migrants have returned to their home state with the highest number of migrants returning to Uttar Pradesh (32.4 lakh) Bihar (15 lakh) and Rajasthan (13 lakh), in the first such centralized database record on migrants. It added that the Indian Railways has operated more than 4611 Shramik Special trains for ferrying migrant workers and more than 63.07 lakh have been shifted to various destinations in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and other states.
The trains were started from May 1 to ferrying migrant labourers during the lockdown to their home states. The railway ministry had last month said many migrants have begun going back to the places where they worked and added it indicates that economic activity has begun picking up after India began easing lockdown restrictions.
“The unplanned lockdown created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The BJP 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, assistant professor at Azim Premji University.
“The States/UTs have been advised to take adequate steps to streamline the migration of the workers to mitigate the hardships of migrant workers returning to the destination States/UTs,” the labour ministry told Parliament.
“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 stake-holders 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,” it added.
Another question was asked on whether the government failed in its in assessment of problems faced by migrant workers during the lockdown, including in Tamil Nadu.
Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State (MoS) with independent charge in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, said: “India, as a nation, has responded through the Central and state governments, local bodies, self-help groups (SHGs), Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), medical health professionals, sanitation workers as well as large number of genuine and bona-fide non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the nation’s fight against the unprecedented humanitarian crisis due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and country-wide lockdown, including in Tamil Nadu.”