Issues faced by a Migrant Worker
While we were in our homes, following the government protocols and spending quality time with our families, there they were -” The Migrant Workers ”. Thousands and thousands of them. On the streets, with even bigger issues to deal with that question their entire basic sustenance. Now, what were those issues that compelled them to defy the whole population and the government?
There always has been a dearth of job opportunities in rural areas and for ages, we have seen people shifting from rural to urban areas in search of better job opportunities and a better standard of living. No one likes leaving the cozy of their homes and the warmth of their families.
Before being branded as a migrant worker, they have to go through several phases that ultimately leads to this harrowing decision. From working day and night on other's land to carrying heavy loads and whatever underpaid job they could find, they never give up to earn that little amount so that they could feed their families.
Only when those hunger pangs grow deeper and deeper each day with nothing in their pockets but disappointment and the humiliation they feel for not being able to live up to their family's needs grows, they take the harder road.
Since time immemorial, India has been an agrarian economy. But with liberalization and the economy opening up, there was a shift and the economy became more service-based and this hit the migrant workers even harder. Even if they want to get loans to start their small-scale businesses, they have to approach the so-called "zameendars" in their villages who exploit them and charge higher rates of interest further pushing them into greater debts.
But their problems don't end just here. It's just the beginning for them. When they reach the metropolitan cities away from their permanent home and their family, they have to deal with not only the foreign environment and workplace but also with the increased cost of living there. Since most of them are unskilled, they do not get proper jobs and are forced to take up tentative menial jobs where they are underpaid.
Their working conditions are poor and they do not have a proper place to live in. Moreover, they have to send whatever they have earned to their family who is in desperate need of money and even more so, companionship. Even if they take their families with them, they are not able to provide for them.
As William Shakespeare rightly said, "When sorrows come, they come not in single spies, but in battalions" and the whole world was hit by a huge pandemic. The covid infection and the resulting lockdown created an even more grave situation for these workers. The lockdown revealed the underbelly of Indian society.
The migrant workers could not meet even their basic requirement of hunger which is placed at the lowermost rung in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The lockdown also had a huge psychosocial impact on their health and they were filled with anxiety and depression with the want to go but not having the means to go to their devastated families. On top of that, there was this panic of getting infected by a coronavirus.
Soon after the lockdown, in a frantic attempt to reach their hometown many workers gathered in an attempt to reach there where everybody knows their name. There was a stampede and many migrant workers even died in the process. Their dreams of a better life for them and their family shattered and crumbled.
The way forward would have to be the eradication of this massive problem right from its roots. Proper education with a higher enrollment rate and lesser dropouts in schools of rural areas should be worked upon. On our part, we should encourage parents to send their wards to schools and not to the fields to work. Training programs and workshops could be arranged for the unskilled working population which will fetch them better jobs with higher pay.
More job opportunities could be created in the rural areas themselves with the establishment of several indigenous, small-scale, and cottage industries. More people should be encouraged to work on the farms and to that end, better working conditions need to be provided with better wages and more flexible hours of work.
Awareness campaigns for people should be set up, informing them about the banks in rural areas with lower interest on loans. Friendly employees at the Bank should be stationed so that rural people have faith in them and they should be assured at each point and all their apprehensions are allayed.
Moreover, the entire process should be smoothened. It's high time we think about those people who live among us physically but not with us mentally. What greater pleasure is there than to reunite someone with their family!