Foul Toilets, Mosquito Infestations: Life in the Camps for India’s Migrant Workers is Only Getting Worse


Foul Toilets, Mosquito Infestations: Life in the Camps for India’s Migrant Workers is Only Getting Worse

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The coronavirus pandemic has extracted a disproportionate cost out of the most vulnerable in our society, the poor migrants. Many have walked hundreds of kilometres to get back to their homes, others have had to stay days on end with several other people in a dingy 8X8 rooms, most have inadequate food to eat and no money to spend but a family to take care of regardless. Many migrants have been housed in migrant camps and conditions are far from liveable.

A Delhi Police report on migrant camps from Central Delhi flagged many issues such as fans not working, poor sanitation of toilets, bad food quality, no hand wash or sanitizers, foul smell in toilets, no detergent for washing clothes and mosquito bites. The Central District administration directed officials to take remedial action based on the report within 24 hours.

Meanwhile, YK Jhuggi is home to over 1,200 households, mostly farmers and labourers. Before the lockdown, they had filled water from places of work but are now trying to filter brackish muddy water with DIY sediment filters. People from this basti who grow their own vegetables can’t access them for fear of the police. Main requirements right now are material for roofing, clean drinking water, foodgrains and other ration essentials for those who don’t have ration cards, money and means.

A group of migrant workers stuck in Bengal from Delhi had rotis with water last night as they have run out of food rations and food relief camps close by are shut. The situation is dire for thousands across the country.

Even though the government assured that migrants weren’t on the roads anymore and they would be taken care of through stay, food, and monetary assistance, the reality is far from it. Both on the Agra-Delhi Expressway as well as the Kota-Indore National Highway, migrant workers are still seen walking long distances, at times even 500 kilometres.

For the third time in a month, migrant workers in Surat were out on the roads and went on a rampage. Labourers protested and pelted stones at the office of Diamond Bourse in Surat, alleging that they were made to work amid the lockdown and demanded to be sent back to their native places.

The migrant situation is quite fragile in many parts of the country and while a financial package was announced, much more will have to be done to ensure that migrants can handle the crisis with a decent place to live in, have clean water to drink, food to eat and some money to spend. India cannot afford to fail the backbone of our society and our economy.