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Have No Money to Send Back Home: Migrant Labourers Without Income During COVID19 Lockdown in India

© REUTERS / DANISH SIDDIQUIA homeless man waits for food outside a government-run night shelter during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, March 25, 2020.
A homeless man waits for food outside a government-run night shelter during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, March 25, 2020.  - Sputnik International
New Delhi (Sputnik): India has recorded more than 600 cases of COVID19 and 13 deaths due to the virus. The government has announced a 21-day lockdown and the suspension of most railways and flights.

The five men cramped inside a small room in a factory in Delhi's Samaypur Badli district are clueless about what will happen in the coming days of the COVID19 lockdown. 

“We are locked in our rooms and there is no work. Four to five of us live in a single room so that we can divide the rent. I am stuck in a place which is worse than a jail. Even the convicts in jail are getting better food facilities than us. I am using whatever little money I have earned the previous week,” says Suresh Chaudhary, a migrant worker who still has to pay his rent for another six to seven months.

The situation is similar for these migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who stay in rooms in factories, which are shut in the wake of COVID19 lockdown. 

These workers leave their homes and villages to come to cities to earn money. Most of them are the only income earners in their families and send money back home every month, which they are not able to do at present.  

“We don’t have money to sustain ourselves but we are more worried about families, whom we use to send money but now can’t due to the lockdown. Most of our families are dependent on us. Spending every penny or saving we have is becoming difficult for us,” says Sanjay Choudhary from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, who works at a plastic factory. 

​Survival is Difficult 

The migrant workers are facing double trouble as they can neither go back home nor do they have financial assistance from the government to survive the lockdown.

“I cannot even travel to reach home due to this lockdown. We have some ration stocked but we will run out of it any time now,” Sanjay says. Reiterating that all the services are now closed, Suresh also wishes to travel back home but cannot.

Sanjay revealed that the factory owner has not given any information regarding wages.

Another worker Dara Singh, who works at a factory making polythene bags says: “We don't have money, it's really difficult for us to survive. We are not even getting our salaries in advance. As food essentials are about to run out of stock, people have started selling them in black, which we cannot afford”. 

“We will die if we don't earn. Our families back home will die of hunger. We request the government to come forward to help us,” said Singh, who belongs to Giridih area of Jharkhand State.

Some Distractions in Times of Adversity 

Even in this time of adversity, the migrant workers have found ways to participate in some activities. Unaware of the rules around social distancing, the workers are bonding over cricket and board games 

“We have board games, television and mobile phones to distract ourselves. We even play cricket on rooftop. But 21 days is a very long time period,” says Ajay Chauhan from Uttar Pradesh, who works at a charger factory in Yadav Nagar.

On Tuesday, Delhi State chief Arvind Kejriwal proposed providing assistance of $65.70 (Rs 5000) to each construction worker as.

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