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

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

JP advised RSS to give up Hindu Rashtra, disband itself: Ex-IAS officer tells Modi

Counterview Desk
Major MG Devasahayam IAS (Retd), chairman, People-First, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Jayprakash Narain’s (JP’s) death anniversary (October 11) has wondered whether he remembers “a patriot called Jayaprakash Narayan”. Recalling what JP thought on issues such as communalism, freedom, democracy, Hindutva etc., Devasahayam says, Modi has been been doing “the very opposite of the principles and values for which JP lived and died.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

UP chief secretary, DGP have 'surrendered' to political diktat: 92 retired IAS, IPS officials

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, 92 retired IAS, IFS and IPS bureaucrats, commenting on “blatant violations of the rule law” following the Hathras incident, have blamed that the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police for abjectly failing to exercise control over a “highly compromised” administration the state.

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

Hathras reflects Manu's mindset dominates: 'Women are false, it's in their nature to seduce'

By Parijat Ghosh, Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
The woman died and then we woke up to protest. She was alive for two weeks after the heinous incident. Many of us even didn’t notice what had happened at Hathras, how she fought during the next 15 days. Those who noticed, many of them were not sure what actually had happened. So much so, we as a nation were more busy in finding out who among the Bollywood actresses were taking drugs, who smoked weed, who had ‘inappropriate’ or more than one relationship, what kind of private conversations they had in their chat boxes and what not!

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.

Delhi riots: Even British didn't accuse Bhagat Singh of reading Lenin, Jack London

By Vikash Narain Rai*
After the #BlackLifeMatters movement seriously tested the credibility of police across America, the Houston police chief Art Acevado talked of ending “lawful but awful” policing. No comparison, but in India, a citizens’ committee comprising former top judges and bureaucrats is now set to inquire into the role of the state machinery and media in handling the February 2020 Delhi violence, which followed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), “as the investigation by the Delhi Police has evoked extensive critical commentary in recent times.”

Atrocities against Dalits: Why don't MPs, MLAs from the community ever speak up?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
In Gujarat, a young Dalit activist lawyer Devji Maheshwari, belonging to the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMSCEF) was killed in Surat, allegedly by a goon who was warning him against his Facebook posts not to speak up against Brahmanism. Facts have come to light suggesting there are other issues also which led to the murder, mostly related to land disputes, many a time ignored by activists.