According to one report, Indian students are ‘starving’ in the UK because of the lockdown there. What does this say about that country – otherwise known to be prosperous and ‘advanced’? What about India’s flourishing metropolises that have not had the means to look after migrant workers for a couple of months, despite acknowledging the fact that industry and commerce would come to a grinding halt without them? On the other hand, when an incident like the one in Aurangabad takes place – fifteen migrants walking home run over by a goods train – there is no shortage of people extending fake sympathy and hoping to score political points. Indeed, if anything, such ‘concerned’ folk have been instrumental in instigating these workers to try and get home in whatever way they can, instead of encouraging them to stick it out in their place of future employment – and helping them to do so.
India’s economy will suffer a double blow because of this insensitivity and self-serving politics. Industry will suffer a shortage of skilled and comparatively cheap labour, while the workers will be bereft of work in their native places. This plight was articulated by a software engineer from Delhi going home to the hills in Uttarakhand – she does not know how to farm, or become involved in ‘sustainable’ activity as some expect! In fact, the practicalities of such transfer of population are so complex that the basic purpose of the lockdown is likely to be defeated. It would have been much cheaper and easier to care for all such people where they were if there had been the necessary will among the host communities. The focus should have been on transferring just those who got stuck in other places they were visiting for a short while, such as pilgrims, tourists, marriage parties, patients, etc.
It will be easy, given the lax manner in which this transfer of people is being undertaken, for some corona patients to enter the present green zones of Uttarakhand and completely undo the gains thus far. If such scenarios take place in all states of the country, the nation will pay a much higher price in every way than it would have if the migrants had stayed put. It should have been the task of all political parties to unitedly work for a successful lockdown. Not only have they failed to do so, the mischief is being continued. It is the people who will end up paying the price.