Explore the socio-psychological effects of migration and the challenges faced by the migrant population in India during the COVID-19 lockdown. Understand the impact on livelihood, healthcare, and mental health, and discover potential solutions to address these issues. Stay informed about the unprecedented crisis and its consequences on the vulnerable sections of the population.
According to WHO reports, COVID-19, which was first discovered in December 2019, plunged the entire world into an unprecedented crisis and lingering uncertainty, resulting in countless deaths, a generalised economic downturn, unemployment, quarantine, an unavoidable lockdown, and travel ban that was enacted globally as a necessity to combat the pandemic. The migrants were discovered to be one of the most vulnerable sections of the population during this lockdown, as their very livelihood had ceased to exist. This blog post intends to look into the socio-psychological effects of migration as well as the various hardships that migrants faced in India during the lockdown.
Migration is a crucial component and a very important aspect of the development of human civilization. Migration occurs at both individual as well as community levels and happens due to multiple reasons such as the search for better job opportunities, improved working and/or living conditions, greater income levels etc. But the main factor affecting migration which is seen popularly is the availability of resources in the economic system, driving the labour force from one place to another. According to Virupaksha, migration is a continuous process which is common to all living beings, further bifurcating it into internal/national migration and external/international migration. In this paper, we will only be talking about the internal migrant labour force and the problems which they had to face due to the sudden lockdown imposed due to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic had caused significant disruption across the globe, and the situation was no different in India. In the whole nation, the lockdown imposed after the outbreak of the virus severely impacted the migrant labour force. Migrant workers, who form a significant portion of the labour force in India, have been left in a vulnerable position as they struggle to cope with the aftermath of the lockdown.
The lockdown was a necessary step to control the spread of the virus, but its impact on the economy, particularly on the migrant labour force was very harsh and severe. With no work and no means of sustenance, many migrants were forced to leave their occupational workplace and return to their home states, often on foot, as transport was not readily available. This led to a humanitarian crisis as thousands of migrant workers were stranded on highways, with no food or water. This issue was widely covered in national and international media and news outlets.
One of the major problems faced by the migrant labour force during the lockdown was the loss of livelihood and jobs. Migrants working in the unorganized sector, such as construction, domestic work, and street vending, were hit the hardest. With no work at hand, they had no means of earning a livelihood and were left to fend for themselves. The loss of income also meant that they could not afford rent or buy food, which further worsened their situation. The government being busy with healthcare tried to dip its hands in various welfare policies for the migrants but failed very miserably.
Another major problem faced by the migrant labour force was the lack of access to healthcare, prominent reasons being full beds in the hospitals and the monumental cost of the treatment at a private hospital. Migrants, particularly those living in slums, had limited to no access to healthcare facilities, and the lockdown made matters worse. With hospitals overwhelmed and understaffed, many migrants had to rely on home remedies or self-medication to treat their illnesses, which were no substitute for the treatments provided at hospitals.
The lockdown also created a sense of isolation among the migrants. Many migrants lived in crowded and unhabitable conditions, often sharing a single room with several other people, without proper sanitation and hygiene etc. They were cut off from their families and friends with no access to public transport or other means of proper communication. This created a sense of loneliness and hopelessness among many migrants, which further worsened their mental health.
So, what are the solutions to these problems? The government has taken several steps to address the issue of migrant labour during the lockdown. One of the most significant measures taken by the government was the provision of free food and accommodation for migrant workers. The governments of various states set up relief camps and shelters across the country, where migrants were provided with food, water, and medical care. The government had also announced several relief measures, such as cash transfers and loans, to support the migrant labour force. Many state governments also set up helplines and provided transport to help migrants return to their home states.
However, these measures were not sufficient, and there is still much more that needs to be done to support the migrant labour force. Here are some additional solutions that can be implemented. Some of them are as follows-
Firstly, the government needs to create more job opportunities for migrants, particularly in the unorganized sector. The government can provide incentives to businesses to hire more migrant workers and also set up training programs to help migrants learn new skills.
Secondly, the government needs to improve the healthcare infrastructure in slums and other areas where migrants reside. This can be done by setting up mobile health clinics, increasing the number of hospital beds, and providing free medical care to migrants.
Thirdly, the government needs to focus on improving the living conditions of migrants. This can be done by providing affordable housing, improving sanitation facilities, and ensuring that migrants have access to basic amenities such as water and electricity.
Fourthly, the government needs to take steps to improve the mental health of migrants. This can be done by setting up counselling centres, providing access to mental health professionals, and creating support groups for migrants.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the migrant labour force in India. The lockdown imposed after the outbreak of the virus has left many migrants without work, healthcare, and necessities such as food, shelter etc. The steps which were taken by the governments were inadequate and inefficient, thereby leading affluent individuals to step up for these migrant workers and help them reach their homes, providing them with food and shelter and so on. All in all, it can be said that the lockdown had been a hard time for the migrant labours and has given very valuable lessons to every one of us.