Government of India announced first Lockdown on 24th March, 2020. This stopped all economic activity across the country. Markets were closed , industries were closed and institutions were also closed. People working in different parts of the country became jobless. The owners of industries, businesses and institutions did not listen to the Union Government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi who said that no employee should be terminated. People lost jobs and soon the landlords who had rented out their houses to the workers started asking for rent and when the tenants could not pay the rent threw them out. Soon the savings of the workers exhausted and they were without supplies. Help from society and the state was too less in comparision to the needs of the people. The second lockdown came and continued till 3rd of May. In between the banging of Thali and clapping events took place. Turning off the lights and lighting of lamps and candles were showcased with huge fan and fare. Till then the government of India and the state governments did not have any idea as to what was going on in the households and minds of the working people of this country. They were happily thinking of the rich and the middle class who were comfortably living in their houses, enjoying new dishes prepared by watching recipies on the You Tube. On 3rd of May,2020 when the third lockdown was announced, the workers lost their patience and started demanding to go back to their native states where at least they could survive in the villages with whatever little resources they had.
People gathered at Dadar Railway station in Maharashtra and Surat Railway station in Gujarat as the Indian Railways had booked tickets and a message was circulated that trains would ply to take them back to UP,Bihar and Odisha. Police used tear gas and lathi charge to scatter the crowd. Communal angle was added by pro-government media unnecessarily to demonize the crowd. Since then at several places labour who tried to go out were treated badly by police. They were beaten brutally, harassed and even arrested. Seeing no help coming, workers started walking, travelling on bicycles, motor bikes, tempos, trucks, trailers and even containers in order to go back to their states. This was unprecedented in the history of independent India.
Then the state governments woke up and started a mechanism of registering workers who wanted to return. The week ending 17th May ,2020 approximately 2.4 lakh workers had registered in Karnataka, 56 thousand in J&K, 20 Lakhs in Gujarat, 16 lakhs in Rajasthan to leave the state.
West Bengal was expecting 2lakh workers to return to the state, Odisha was expecting 8-10 lakh workers to return , Assam 1.5 lakh and Kerala 85 thousand workers to their states respectively.
The arrangements made by the union and state governments did not match and pictures of men, women , children walking hundreds of kilometers became common. Who are these people?
Are they not citizens of India? Why they are being stopped at every state border? Why are they forced to go hungry for days?
Why are they being beaten by police? Why is it that they are expelled from their jobs and government can do nothing against their employers? Why are they being treated as if they are refugees seeking asylum? Is India not their country?
Is it not a democracy?
Is it not the duty of the governments to keep them safe, feed them and provide shelter, transport and medical help?