On September 14, The Government informed in Parliament that It has not maintained any data on the number of migrant workers who had died.
In Parliament, 10 Loksabha MPs including K Navaskani, Suresh Narayan Dhanorkar and Adoor Prakash asked the government questions related to the deaths of migrant workers.
In reply, the minister of state for labour and employment, Santosh Gangwar said ‘No such data is maintained’.
Just to bring in General awareness, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the ‘Union Budget 2020’ said that data is necessary to maintain the India’s increasingly complex economy, “data must have strong credibility”.
Its just a matter of time that when the same government was throwing light at the importance of data is now saying that it hasn’t maintained any in such important issue.
The MPs also asked that if the government has provided any compensation/economic assistance to the victims’ family.
On that Santosh Gangwar replied that when the government has no data on the deaths then the answer to compansation is definitely a No.
When asked if it has done any assessment of job losses among migrant workers due to the Covid-19 crisis, the government again replied, “No such data is maintained”.
The Minister provided data of the number of migrant workers who returned to their home states during the lockdown imposed in March. A total of 1,04,66,152 workers had returned, with 32,49,638 returning to Uttar Pradesh and 15,00,612 to Bihar.
While according to a report by The Wire, It is clearly shown that Government did collect the data on deaths of migrant workers during lockdown.
Right to Information Act reveal that the government has recorded information about the deaths of migrant workers.Information provided in response to the RTI application filed in 18 zones of the Indian Railways has confirmed the deaths of at least 80 people on boarding the Shramik Special Trains.
According to another report by India Today, As on May 28, India Today documented 238 migrant workers who died while trying to reach their homes.
Analysis of this data shows that the reasons for migrant workers’ deaths during their homeward journeys include: getting burnt to death in forest fires, being hit or crushed by truck/bus/trains, exhaustion, heart attack, blood in vomiting, chest pain, asphyxiation after falling in a deep pit, being trapped in snow, stomach pain, breathlessness, hunger, exhaustion, dehydration, fatigue, multi-organ failure, and snake bite, among others.
If we see, Uttar Pradesh saw the highest number of deaths (at least 99), followed by Madhya Pradesh (at least 34), Maharashtra (at least 31) and Bihar (at least 23).
According to a study conducted by a group of independent researchers,there have been nearly a thousand deaths between March 19 and July 4 which are not directly related to the coronavirus infection, but were caused by other problems emerging out of the crisis.
The data was collected by public interest technologist Thejesh G.N., social worker and researcher Kanika Sharma and assistant professor at Jindal Global School of Law, Aman.
According to the report, the researchers claimed that between March 19 and July 4, they could collate 971 deaths which are linked to the lockdown.The researchers said that the number of deaths might be very high as many of cases may have left unreported.
In June, SaveLIFE Foundation, a New Delhi-based non-profit organisation working on road safety, prepared a report saying at least 198 migrant workers were killed in road accidents between March 25 and May 31.
The report said more than 1,400 road accidents killed 750 people in India during this period and of them, 198 were migrant workers.
According to a report by Jan Sahas, In April, Jan Sahas brought out a report after a rapid assessment of over 3,000 construction workers in the early days of the lockdown. Speaking to 3,196 migrant workers on March 27-29, Jan Sahas found that 92.%% of the labourers had “already lost work ranging from one week to three weeks”.
“Under the Act, States should create the database of migrant workers. Since the government now has the data of a large number of workers who returned to their home States, they can continue the process of registration and then real-time tracking. They need to take this as an opportunity,” said Asif Shaikh, director of Jan Sahas.
The lockdown in India began with the motive to stop the spread of Novel Coronavirus. But The picture didn’t remain smooth as a number of migrant workers started to move towards their hometowns and villages because the livelihood has stopped and they had nothing to eat. Not the best but only option these people had was to go back to their home.
They started moving and alot of them lost their lives on the way and couldn’t reach their home. It was only later when the migrant workers were provided with ‘Shramik Special Trains’ and vehicles to reach their home.
A government is responsible for well being of the nation and should resolve the problems facing by the Citizens. For such sensitive issue, saying that it has not maintained any data was the most insensitive response.
Forget about Compensation, The government isn’t even accepting the fact that any migrant workers have died. Neither compensation not consolation. This isn’t what the general public deserves.