Even as the whole country is battling an intense and grueling confrontation with the Corona crisis, we the members of the Indian Christian Women’s Movement want to express our deep shock and horror at the treatment being meted out to hapless migrant workers who were today sprayed with disinfectant!
The announcement of the total lock-down found the government ill-prepared for the magnitude of its impact on migrant labourers and daily-wagers. Many relief agencies, including Christian agencies and Churches have offered all their help and facilities, but it is not enough. What is missing is a well-coordinated national plan to ensure that every Indian is covered.
Today the rest of India watched the news on television with shame and disbelief, as migrant families herded out of buses were made to sit in groups of 50 or more. Forget about social distancing, they were sprayed with chemicals. We can only wonder where and how they will be housed, whether they will be tested for the virus, and treated before they continue to their homes. They are not criminals, just Indians anxious to reach their homes in cities far away from their place of work. Some have made gruelling journeys, often walking for several hundred kilometres from the places of their employment. They are escaping homelessness and hunger in places where they were living as migrant labourers. The lock down has locked them out of their jobs and there was no way they could live without income in the big cities where they were earning a livelihood.
While we acknowledge the tireless efforts made by the government machinery to bring back stranded Indians from the different countries coming under the high risk list, it is bewildering that people living here in India receive drastically different treatment. Flights were commissioned to transport overseas Indian populations back home and sadly quite a few evaded quarantine. Those flown in were respectfully screened by health personnel at the airports, whereas ‘powerless’ migrant workers, and their children have been inhumanely doused with disinfectant.
In this situation we demand immediate measures on the part of the Centre and State governments to ensure humane treatment of all migrant workers in the country and their immediate rehabilitation with compensation.
Dr Aruna Gnanadason, National Convener, ICWM National Team: Dr Kochurani Abraham, Ms Marcia D'Cunha, Rev Dr Jayachitra Lalitha, Dr Joycia Thorat, Dr Lalnghakthuami, Ms Sushma Ramswami