Lockdown and Labour | Article by Diganta Pathak

         Lockdown and Labour

        The Labour Day is typically meant to highlight the protection of workers' rights. This year it has come at a time when labourers are struggling to survive and their rights need protection more than ever. The heart rending death of 16 workerswho were sleeping on railway track, exhausted after 700 km walk towards their homes highlight the plight of workers today.

In the Indian contextair travellers were said to be the main carriers of the Corona virus but later on most people who suffered, never had any air travel history. The labourers and daily wage earners suffered the most not because they were infected by the virus but because due to lockdown the economy had come to a standstill. We Indians lit diya, banged plates, rang bells, did floral showers, to keep the virus at bay but all these acts could do nothing to relieve  the suffering of labour class.

With factories and workplaces shutting down, the  immediate impact of the nationwide lockdownwas felt by millions of migrant workers who  had to deal with loss of income, food shortages coupled with uncertainty about their future. Following this, many families went hungry. When all avenues closed, thousands of them began walking back home, with no means of transport due to the lockdown. Some migrant workers even lost their lives. As many lived away from their homes for better avenues of livelihood, their earnings depend on their daily hardwork. Majority of them had been availing accommodation as tenantand hence had to pay monthly rentals. As the lockdown was declared without any warning it badly affected the economy. In many cases the labourers were stranded. Obviously most of them do not possess a corpus fund to smoothly run their family needs for the subsequent months, when there would be no earning.  Consequently these people were compelled to return to their places of origin. The real problem started there. The labour class which mostly depends on road and railway transport for movement from one place to another, had no access to these services during lockdownThey had no choice but to start walking their way home for hundreds of kilometers with their family and childrenIn response, the Central and State Government did try to arrange for alternatives by providing transport facilities, but was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation.

Now let us analyse the situation in the aftermath of the lockdown . About 9 crore jobs were lost by daily wage earners, small traders and hawkers. 50 per cent of the people who lost their jobs during that time remained unemployed even in December 2020. Among them ninety per cent belonged to the labour class. For these people food consumption reduced remarkably during lockdown and of them, only 30 per cent could regain their original food consumption pattern till end of the year 2020.

Economists observed that “Things are going to get worse after the lockdown is lifted as the people are already desperate to get wages, work, or means of livelihood, chances of exploitation increase”. On the flip side, employers who  depended on migrants labourers, now had to look for locally available workers Subsequently they were compelled to provide better wages and facilities  to them, thereby uplifting the minimum living standards of the local labourers. This drove home another lesson to the States from where maximum migrant labours originate, specially states like UP, Bihar, Rajastahan etc. The Government of the state now had to chalk out plans to provide job opportunities to the local labourers in the state itself.

As far as Assam is concerned, there are many young people from the state working as daily wage earners in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangaluru  and Kerala. As these places are highly susceptible to corona virus infection, hence the challenge before the government is over creating  job opportunities for all those who returned to their home states.

           We may conclude the discussion by saying that Corona Virus has reminded mankind that he is not the supreme species on earth.


Sri Diganta Pathak,

Sub-Inspector of Schools, Rangia

Illustration :-  Pallabi Pathak

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