300 Migrant Workers in Two Trucks: Covid-19 is Pushing the Poorest Indians to the Brink


300 Migrant Workers in Two Trucks: Covid-19 is Pushing the Poorest Indians to the Brink

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

It’s Day 3 of the 21-day lockdown and India is still coming to terms with this “new normal”. While upper and middle-class Indians are confined to their homes, it’s  the economically weaker sections who are left to fend for themselves.

With no trains or buses to ferry them, migrant workers are walking hundreds of kilometres to get back to their villages – carrying their children and partners on their back, some tugging their luggage. And there seems to be no end to their plight.

On Thursday, over 300 migrant workers were found crammed inside two container trucks by the Maharashtra Police, according to a PTI report. These trucks were specifically issued for carrying essential supplies from Telangana to Rajasthan.

The trucks were stopped for routine inspection in the border district of Yavatmal when a team of police and revenue department officials found these men in the enclosed space.

The drivers claimed to be transporting essential goods to Rajasthan but the officials at the Pandharkavda toll booth found it suspicious when the drivers could not give a satisfactory answer as to what the trucks were carrying and where, according to a senior official as reported by NDTV. Primarily construction workers trying to get home, Yavatmal Superintendent of Police M Rajkumar told The Indian Express that the police were investigating how these men had managed to get this far from Hyderabad without being caught.

While officials will take actions against the drivers, they are unsure of how to deal with the workers. “We do not know what to do with them,” said one of the officials. “They need to go home for survival. We will take a decision soon.”

Story after story of jobless migrant workers trying to survive has emerged since the lockdown came into force on Tuesday. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, who has received praise for his handling of the crisis, has assured that those stranded in the state will be looked after.

His son Aditya Thackeray rightly said that this is a time “when the federal structures are being tested on compassion.”

In yet another incident of migrant workers struggling to make it to their homes, policemen at Badaun’s Naweda Chauraha were witnessed abusing their powers.

The workers, returning from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh to their villages in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun, were made to crawl and hop on the streets. The now viral clip has been immensely condemned on social media. Since then, the Badaun Police has acknowledged the incident and later released a video where the Badaun Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ashok Kumar Tripathi issued an apology and spoke about the action taken against the “foolishness of one policeman”.

Amidst the lockdown, police brutality has been at its peak against those violating the orders. One hopes that training and education of personnel will help reduce the scale of this human suffering.