The COVID-19 pandemic financially affects the worldwide populace, with numerous
nations near the precarious edge of breakdown and individuals left scrambling
for fundamental supplies. In India, fears about the approaching emergency and
its cataclysmic impacts, given India’s thick populace and lacking public medical
care offices, driven the Prime Minister to require a total lockdown from 25
March 2020 – with under four hours’ notification. India’s lockdown is one of the
world’s biggest and strictest, and its effect has been crushing, especially on
more weak gatherings like shelter searchers and displaced people who have lost
their livelihoods and attempted to support themselves.
Over 200,000 migrant labourers live in densely populated urban settlements in
India. Because of their precarious legal status and the increasingly
deteriorating security climate, they have restricted access to mainstream
services and help. India has repeatedly refused to implement a national asylum
system despite not being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967
As a result, it largely manages and accords rights to various refugee
communities by ad hoc executive orders/policies. In fact, India has two separate
refugee security frameworks: one for refugees from neighbouring countries
(except Myanmar), who are given government protection, and another for refugees
from Myanmar and non-neighbouring countries, who are handled by UNHCR. As a
result, different classes of refugees have different documentation and receive
different treatment. Based on our conversations with various community leaders
and other important stakeholders, this article highlights some of the current
issues facing refugees in India.
One per cent of mankind is persuasively dislodged and their possibilities of
having a typical existence are reducing quickly in the midst of the exclusionary
aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. India, the biggest COVID-19 lockdown on the
planet, is home to 244,094 exiles and migrant labourers searchers. The pandemic
is a human misfortune – one that has uncovered previous primary disparities in
India’s medical services and financial reaction frameworks.
While the infection
doesn’t segregate, its effects do. This blog entry features the noticeable
example of unbalanced damage endured by India’s super weak displaced people and
fundamentally examinations the community reaction estimates received by the
Government in close conference with UNHCR to relieve the exacerbated uncertainty
Issues Faced By The Migrant Labourers
Although the government continues to issue advisories, nothing is being done to
resolve the concerns of Indian labourers. Many of these issues arise from a lack
of information about migrants’ legal status and, as a result, a lack of
government documentation. This is why so many labourers work in the unorganized
sector, but due to lockdown, those working in this sector are unable to earn a
This has had a significant effect on those who depend on regular
salaries and have no savings to stock up on necessities. Furthermore, the
lockdown has had a major effect on asylum seekers whose cases are already
pending, as well as those who have not yet registered with UNHCR, due to the
indefinite suspension of UNHCR’s refugee status determination (RSD) operations.
Limited admittance to fundamental administrations has additionally irritated the
issues looked at by evacuee networks during this drawn-out time of emergency.
significant concern is an absence of admittance to public medical services
offices, particularly by pregnant ladies, the old, and the individuals who
require close checking following progressed operations. While exiles are
permitted to get to the public medical services framework, emergency clinics are
at present overburdened and incapable to give clinical consideration in most
non-Covid related cases.
India has not found any sure ways to expand the advantages of free COVID-19
testing or other government-carried out help plans to exiles. There has
additionally been an ascent in aggressive behaviour at home, deteriorated by
outcast ladies’ failure to get to existing emotionally supportive networks.
While the public the authority has set up new helplines to broaden help
distantly, displaced person ladies are normally hesitant to move toward
government specialists because of their equivocal legitimate status and dread of
retaliation inside their networks.
Another problem was the absence of a reasonable monetary guide accessible to
exile networks. With no alleviation gave under focal or state-executed help
bundles or substitute job help measures, evacuees are battling to make a decent
living. Countless families dependent upon settlements from family members based
outside of India have additionally not had the option to get to monetary
frameworks, primarily banks and cash move offices.
Further, different local area pioneers have communicated worries about exiles’
powerlessness to pay lease to their property managers because of loss of
livelihoods. While state governments have given different bearings and warnings
mentioning landowners not to remove their inhabitants because of non-instalment
of lease -, for example, in New Delhi, where the state government has offered to
cover the lease of those incapable to meet their commitments – there keep on
being reports of unfavourable removals of outcasts in light of the fact that
such measures don’t reach out to them.
Measures Taken By India
The Indian government has taken a range of steps to minimize the pandemic’s
effects, including declaring masks and sanitisers as vital commodities, speeding
up contact-tracing and testing activities, authorizing private laboratories to
perform testing, and announcing a relief package to meet the urgent needs of the
poor and others in need of immediate assistance.
In spite of the fact that the lockdown has influenced practically all residents
to differing degrees, transient specialists have arisen as among the most
Abandoned in greater urban communities without any livelihoods without
monetary action, many were left with no decision except for to endeavour turn
around relocation. Be that as it may, with fears of this mass migration
prompting the wild spread of the infection into the inside of the country, the
public authority acted quickly to shorten this, and a large portion of those
unfit to get back was put in impermanent asylum offices by different state
governments in India.
To make relief initiatives more available to migrants, the central government
developed hunger centres and launched a migrant mapping protocol. The Supreme
Court of India’s jurisdiction has recently been invoked in cases involving the
provision of basic facilities, the payment of minimum wages to employees, and
ensuring that people covered by the government’s flagship healthcare scheme were
able to access it.
Despite all of these interventions, migrants’ situation remains unchanged, as
they remain excluded from mainstream structures and denied access to any of
- Instructions by the Government
Home Ministry requested the states to guarantee that transients would not
move during the lockdown, allowing the states to utilize the National Disaster
Response Fund (NDRF) for giving food and home to the migrants.
The government provided clear orders coordinating that the property managers
ought not to request rent/lease during the time of lockdown and those companies
should pay their employees without derivation. It additionally declared that the
individuals who violate the lockdown guidelines were to be shipped off to the
government run isolation centres for 14 days, and that it had asked state
governments to set up prompt alleviation camps for the migrant labourers getting
back to their local states. Nonetheless, the request in regard to the instalment
of wages was removed in the rules of the lockdown augmentation.
The National Migrant Information System (NMIS), an online database developed by
the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), was announced by the
government. This was done for making it easier for migrants to travel about.
It will assist states in determining the current number and location of
standard migrant workers. The government intended to keep staff informed by
entering their phone numbers in their database.
- Arrangement of Relief Camps
Just after the Central Government mandate in late March, state governments set
up a huge number of camps to give shelter to lakh of migrants and stop the mass
migration. Delhi Government gave free food to 4 lakh individuals consistently.
More than 500 food camps were set up by the Delhi government. By 5 April 75 lakh
individuals were being given food across the nation over in food camps run by
the public authority and NGOs. Around 37,978 alleviation camps and 26,225 food
camps had been set up.
To meet the needs of the migrants and keep them from leaving the camps, Kerala
Government modified the food served by adding north Indian dishes to the menu,
providing carom boards and phone recharge stations, and providing other medical
necessities such as masks, sanitisers, and medicines.
- Arrangement of Transport System
Starting on 28th May, 91 lakh migrants had gone back home to the government
organised vehicle offices. Notwithstanding, as indicated by the Standard Workers
Action Network (SWAN), migrants were not clear about the specific methods to
enrol themselves for movement. Also, many state enrolments entrances were either
in English or the regional language of the states they lived in, which is not
comprehended by many migrants. Further, the general absence of data from the
public authority to the travellers had brought about them paying enormous
amounts of cash to enrol them:
The Uttar Pradesh government agreed in late March to set up buses at Delhi’s
Anand Vihar bus station to transport migrants back to their villages for free.
After that, a large crowd gathered at the bus stand. However, as the lockdown
was extended, many people were left stranded until the last week of April, when
the central government allowed state governments to run buses but not train.
- Shramik Special Trains
The Indian Railways were granted permission by the central government on May 1
to launch “Shramik Special” trains for migrant workers and others. The Indian
National Congress promised to fund the migrants’ tickets on May 4, causing the
central government to face criticism from the opposition. After that, the
government declared that the railways would have an 85% subsidy on train fares
and the rest 15% will be given by the respective state governments.
- Announcement of Relief Measures by Finance Department
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled a 1.7 lakh crore investment
programme for the poor shortly after the nationwide lockout was announced in
late March. This included cash transfers as well as measures to ensure food
security. As of April 1, the average daily salaries under the MGNREGA were
increased to 202 from 182 to help provide employment and wages to employees.
PM CARES Fund has been allocated Rs 1,000 crore for the support of migrant
workers. FM Sitharaman also declared free food grains for migrant workers, with
a budget of $35 billion aimed at 80 million migrant workers. To combat the
effect of COVID-19 on migrant workers in India, the Indian government launched
the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan initiative. It is a rural public works program
that began on June 20, 2020, with initial funding of 50,000 crores for 116
districts across six states.
- Revised Labour Laws
In early May, the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat
attempted to briefly amend their labour laws in order to attract factories and
investments. This was criticized by labour unions as being harmful to migrant’s
workers while giving employers more power. On 14 May, ten of them wrote to the
ILO to express their concerns, to which the ILO replied by reassuring them.
- Quarantine Measures Directed by the State Governments
As lockdown restrictions were relaxed, several states reported an increase in
COVID-19 positive cases among migrants returning home. Thousands of quarantine
centres were opened by state governments to provide shelters, with some states
implementing mandatory institutional quarantine. States also placed strict rules
for migrants to obey, whether they were leaving or entering the country.
- Hearings of Supreme Court
On March 30, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition on behalf of migrant
workers. The Court directed the Central Government to send a status report on
the migrant worker situation. The Central Government reported in its report that
migrant workers, fearful for their safety, moved in the panic caused by false
news that the lockdown would last longer than expected.
On 26th May, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the migrants’ issues had not
been resolved and that the governments had made “inadequacies and some lapses”.
As a result, it directed the central government and states to provide stranded
migrant workers with free food, shelter, and transportation. Senior lawyers from
Mumbai and Delhi wrote a strongly worded letter to the Supreme Court just hours
before the decision.
Measures Taken by the UNHCR
UNHCR, through its carrying out accomplices, has taken measures to moderate the
pandemic’s effect however much as could reasonably be expected. For instance, to
address food uncertainty, UNHCR’s accomplice associations are furnishing
searchers and displaced people with fundamental distribution which incorporate
basics like rice, pulses, oil, sugar, salt etc.
While this program has offered relief to a number of families who would
otherwise be without access to assistance, the lockdown had extended, making it
unsustainable. Furthermore, food cannot be distributed in sealed off packets
where COVID 19 cases are prevalent.
UNHCR and its collaborators have also taken steps to raise awareness about COVID
19 within refugee communities, such as launching social media initiatives and
enlisting the help of refugee artisans to sew masks. They continue to provide
food to the needy people and make helpline numbers available to those who need
The continued lockdown has aggravated concerns of the entire labour community
about their ongoing sustenance given their restricted access to services,
despite the release of updated guidelines in early May that eased some of the
previous versions of the lockdown. It is critical that the government, in
consultation with UNHCR and other related stakeholders, develops a well
functioning response mechanism to mobilise resources for the refugee community.
There were no reports of COVID 19 infection among migrant labourers in India.
However, after the restrictions began to lose, it was critical to take the
requisite preventive and precautionary steps. To accomplish this, the government
distributed masks to all labourers’ camps and settlements in India, as well as
provide free testing at private laboratories. Migrant labourers are a
particularly vulnerable group that requires protection, both for their own
safety and that of the society that hosts them. Their well being is just a
critical to the general public as that of any other community.
Migrant Labourers are not the issue; they are an important component of the
solution. The pandemic has shown the inadequacy of current development paths. To
avoid a humanitarian tragedy, the government must pay attention to COVID 19
exclusionary effects and regularize inclusive refugee pathways in order to
restore and humanize the country’s vulnerable population.