Indian migrant workers don’t know where to go

Day laborers try to leave Delhi because they have no income and no place to stay. But train traffic has stopped - and at home violence can sometimes await them.


As expected, the situation in India is coming to a head as hundreds of thousands of migrant workers flock back to their villages to ensure that they can survive the Corona crisis. After the government of the world’s most populous country after China imposed a curfew, several hundred million people have no income and can no longer pay rent. The poor are entitled to food rations and some also cash to be able to get by at least until the end of the month. However, many believe that they no longer have a chance in the city and try to reach their home villages.

At the weekend, tens of thousands of people lined up along the national borders of the capital Delhi, waiting for transport options back to the country to their states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Madhya Pradesh. Most were young men who had hired themselves as factory workers, at market stalls, on construction sites, as pushers or cleaning men for around 400 rupees (4.76 euros) a day. Some have taken women and children, bags and everything they could carry with them. A journey of several hundred kilometers lies ahead of many. India, however, has overridden all passenger trains. The country has now converted railway wagons into isolation stations.

Millions of masks and protective suits are missing

Therefore, the refugees from Delhi have no choice but to either go directly to the border in Ghazipur and hope for further transport on the other side or to walk to the interurban bus terminals. The line of people in front of the Anand Vidar bus station measured more than three kilometers on Saturday. It can be seen on video recordings that only a minority of people protect themselves from the risk of infection at least through masks. The required minimum distance of two meters, which is rigid in some places in India and enforced by the police with blows, was completely overruled in the crowds. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ordered on Tuesday that all Indians would have to stay at home for the next 21 days to reduce the wave of infection. According to official information, around one thousand people have been infected with corona to date. The number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher, as the ratio is hardly tested.


The chaos sparks a political argument. Representatives of Modi’s ruling party accused the government in Delhi of bringing the mass of people to the border on buses to create chaos. “You transported them to the border in Delhi buses. Please make sure that every family gets food rations for 15 days and is brought back to their accommodations on buses. Otherwise, the whole thing will be a problem, ”warned a party representative of the opposition city government – although he had to be clear that this would not work: most of the people want to go home, many have no place to stay.

Others reported on social media that workers returning home in Uttar Pradesh were also beaten up and sent back by the police because they were dangerous. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Without a job and with an uncertain future, millions of our sisters and brothers in India are struggling to find their way home. It is shameful that we allow even an Indian to be treated like this and the government has no contingency plans for such an exodus. ”

Modi now apologized to his 1.3 billion people: In his third speech in about a week, he said: “We have to win the fight against Corona, and we will win it.” Many hold the government open Again and again the poor, among them a high proportion of Muslims, in the lurch – first in the useless withdrawal of cash that Modi had ordered, and now again because their fate was not taken care of.

Government documents consulted by Reuters say India needs at least 38 million masks and about 6 million sets of protective clothing; however, it currently only has 9 million masks and 800,000 protective suits. The government has called on companies to start manufacturing immediately.