Skip to main content

Locked up, caged? Back from abroad, 'elite' migrants too find their aspirations dashed

By Shivangini Piplani, Sandeep Pandey*
'Madam, Jhooth nahi bolenge, 1500 pada hai, hum 75 aadmi ek truck me aae the (Madam, I'll not lie, we came back in Rs. 1,500 per head, 75 of us packed in one truck),' Ram Kishore confessed to the first writer when she called him up in his village Dalkheda in Unnao District to verify some information related to migrant labourers who've returned. Ram Kishore is a Dalit like most workers from his village who had migrated in search of livelihood.
Ram Kishore used to work in a crockery factory in Delhi. Ram Sewak, from the same community, used to vend vegetables in Ludhiana. His two sons Shivam and Himanshu used to work in a sticker making factory there and had to return with unpaid salary for last two months. He called up to say that it has been two months since they returned and there has been no support whatsoever forthcoming from the government, his family is landless and in desperation he has come to Lucknow now but even here he is finding it difficult to earn a livelihood.
Ganga Ram from village Arsena used to work as a guard in a newspaper office in Noida and his son Amit used to run errands in the same office. He lost Rs 5,000 is an automatic teller machine and his son returned with Rs 4,000 pending wages. Seema (not the real name), merely 17 years of age, was working as a domestic help in Noida to support her family. She had to return all by herself.
Listening to all the stories of the migrant workers who have come back made us feel really privileged for all the things we have.
The first writer was a student studying in Germany when lockdown forced her to take one of those repatriation flights, and she thought she had to struggle at the airport or wait in long queues, knowing little about the real miseries the less privileged were facing back in India. She got an opportunity to talk to these migrant workers as part of a survey which was conducted. She was enquiring about the cost each of them had to incur to come back.
She stayed at Clarks Awadh hotel for quarantine period, where she was provided meals three times a day but for some of the migrant workers who were quarantined at some school in their vicinity they had to manage food from their home.
Maybe the system is not broken but sure there are many loopholes, some intentional, some unintentional, because of which many returnee migrant workers were denied the benefits which were promised by chief minister Yogi Adityanath and still continue to be neglected. It was not the government but the civil society which restored the faith in humanity by providing food, water and other services to the returning migrant workers. The government appeared to be an obstacle in their passage back home.
We often start blaming our lives, but talking to the migrant workers and acknowledging their situation has shaped us in a better way
A stark disparity in our society has forced some of the less privileged to suffer and continue to suffer. Some of the migrant workers had to walk back and can one sitting in one’s house complaining about the lockdown imagine the sheer helplessness of the migrant workers?
They leave their family to find work in different cities to sustain. Due to lockdown they were forced out of work, managing a day’s meal became difficult and on top of that was the pressure of paying rent. ‘Everybody immediately agreed to the idea of returning as soon as it was suggested because there was no way we could have survived under the conditions of extended lockdown,' as Ram Kishore told his story, not once did it appear that he was complaining, he was just narrating the simple fact.
On the other hand the privileged class was safe inside their homes and had a comfortable cushion in the form of savings. Most service sector employees continued to get their salaries during the lockdown. They had the luxury to work from home. 
On a bad day, we often start blaming our lives, but talking to the migrant workers and acknowledging their situation has definitely shaped us in a better way, despite all the misery and pressure they are in, they were all very polite and humble, not once they wailed, but to hear them breaks one's heart a little.
It is beyond comprehension how some families managed to walk back on feet with their toddlers around and all belongings packed in one or two bags which could be carried on back or head facing threats on three fronts -- the coronavirus disease, the hunger and the police.
Shivangini Piplani
Sometimes people are not looking for solutions; they are looking for someone who is willing to hear them out. Some of the migrant workers we spoke to just wanted to pour their heart out because they felt finally someone is listening to them. Some shared their desperate condition in the village. Some of them are tired sitting at home because there is nothing to do. The lockdown regime seems to have choked all their options.
That is where the difference between the privileged and migrant workers seems to end. As the migrant workers face an uncertain future, the first writer is not sure whether she wants to go back to Germany. Her social cushion may help her survive materially, but like the migrant worker her aspirations are dashed for the moment. She may finish her degree formally by completing online classes but getting a job has become a big question mark.
---
*Shivangini Piplani is doing masters at the Berlin School of Business and Innovation; Sandeep Pandey is a Magsaysay award winning social-political activist

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i