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

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Women innovators on simple, revolutionary alternate solutions for water problems

By Proshakha Maitra, Mansee Bal Bhargava* The detrimental effects of uncontrolled population rise and accelerated change in the global climate have posed tremendous pressure on the water and sanitation. This calls all stakeholders, from both developed and developing nations, to improve their resilience and to instigate sustainability. It is more crucial than ever to optimise the use of the resources we have on hand since the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Crusader for people’s causes, this Hollywood actor entered 'unexplored zones' in US

By Harsh Thakor*  Marlon Brando on April 3rd completes his birth centenary. He perished in 2004, on July 1, aged 80 years. Arguably in Hollywood Brando penetrated sensitivity and versatility at an unparalleled scale and discovered new horizons or explored path breaking zones in acting.

Nuclear power expansion: Is AEC's new, 'unrealistic' target fully backed by PMO?

By Shankar Sharma*  Another unrealistic and tall claim by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has been announced: India is eyeing 100 GW nuclear power by 2047, the AEC chairman  AK Mohanty   has said. A few years ago, the dream target for the Indian nuclear establishment was 275,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2050 (as per DAE document of 2008 "A Strategy for the Growth of Electricity in India”). Now this target of 100 GW nuclear power by 2047. And as at the end of February 2024, the actual nuclear power capacity was only 7,480 MWe, which formed only 1.7% of the total power capacity in the country. 

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

How huge crowd at Mukhtar Ansari funeral is comparable to BJP's 'people's court' talk

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  The massive crowd at the funeral of Mukhtar Ansari in Mohammadabad reflects the power and influence that his family wields in the area. One can't deny that he had enormous power in Ghazipur and Mau districts. But the crowd that came and chanted slogans in his favour does not exonerate him of his conviction by the court.  It is important that we understand this.