One more time many migrants leave Mumbai and somehow reach their villages because there is panic among migrant workers in Mumbai after the Maharashtra government announced a fresh lockdown from 8 pm on April 5, 2021, to break the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the city. Whereas Raj Thackeray blamed these migrants for the spread of COVID-19.
He said the states the migrant labourers hailed from lacked adequate facilities to test them for coronavirus. Maharashtra is the most industrialised state in India which attracts a large number of workers from other states. The places from where these workers come lacked enough testing facilities. Raj Thackeray said he asked the CM Uddhav Thackeray to allow sportspersons to join the practice sessions and to permit gymnasiums to function with social distancing.
Talking about the new set of restrictions imposed in Maharashtra from Monday night, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president said all shops should be kept open for at least two or three days during this period. As per the curbs announced by the state government on Sunday, except for the essential services shops, medical shops and grocery shops, all other shops, markets and shopping malls will be closed in Maharashtra till April 30.
Shutting down shops, restaurants, markets and private offices as part of its lockdown-style restrictions to battle the second wave of the pandemic, its daily wagers who are worst hit. Many of them are migrants left without money or shelter in this expensive city. Their only option is to make the uncertain journey back to a precarious life in the village.
The announcement includes a total lockdown from 8 pm on Fridays to 7 am on Mondays, a night curfew from 8 pm to 7 am, Section 144 during the day, limits on passengers in taxis and rickshaws, closure of markets except those selling essential goods, malls, cinemas and restaurants and private offices to function from home.
Most migrant workers said business and income had been miserable over the last few months with many workers not getting the same volume of work or earnings as before. The situation this time around would be far shoddier than it was last year. Workers who have returned have hardly been able to make ends meet and have little or no savings.
People from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar migrate to Mumbai for jobs. Not just Mumbai, but I have met people from UP and Bihar in places like Bangalore and Hyderabad too. The dream of getting work and a better life brings people from their native place to these metropolises. The majority of companies offering jobs are located in Mumbai/Pune/ Bangalore.
Why would anyone, after completing his/her education continue living in his/her native place with no or little paying job? And not just the educated class, the people with limited education also find themselves with work in places like Mumbai usually without any bias of caste which is unfortunately rampant in places like UP and Bihar.
People from all strata find themselves and their family much safer in Mumbai than in their native places. Plus, Mumbai is as much a part of India as UP and Bihar. Hence, people are free to go anywhere they deem good for themselves. They are not at fault for the lack of jobs and infrastructure in their native regions. Our leaders should understand that and instead of creating a divide between the locals and the migrants, they should focus on improving on COVID cure infrastructure.
Every citizen of India has the right to live wherever he/she pleases. These two states are heavily populated with very few opportunities, and people migrate out in search of a better life. For the first three decades after independence (and for the hundred years before that), the magnet was Calcutta. That was the business and industrial centre of India, the country’s busiest port, airport, and railway hub.
After lockdown, especially in the recent past Industrial production has stopped, offices are being closed and many people are losing their jobs. In such a scenario people pay the power bills which are again huge. Migrants have various challenges, no job, no money and above all fear of lockdown. And in such crises, politicians like Raj Thackeray blaming them for spreading the coronavirus sounds shameful.
Few Marathi Manoos wanted to become security guards, taxi drivers, waiters, cooks, vegetable vendors and, most crucially, construction workers. Nor did they want to work in the sweatshops of Dharavi, tailoring garments, another sector that provides substantial employment. These were filled by workers from not just Bihar and Uttar Pradesh but also the Northeast.
Most security guards outside buildings are from the North Indian states, working gruelling shifts and often working other jobs. Upscale restaurants have serving staff from the Northeast. At the lower end, any Udupi restaurant owners will admit that the man flipping dosas in the kitchen is from Jharkhand. Bengali speakers are in the garment business and construction workers come from different parts of India. The same goes for taxi drivers and shop assistants. They are the backbone of Mumbai.
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