This article titled ‘Discoid Migration and Predicament of Migrant Workers’ is written by Dhruv Kumar and discusses concepts of discoid migration and the predicament of migrant workers. I. Interstate migrant workers formulated perturbation Helpless migrant workers fell even deeper into the well of perturbation suddenly after the expansion of the first lockdown during covid-19 i.e. 3rd May 2020.[1]… Read More »

This article titled ‘Discoid Migration and Predicament of Migrant Workers’ is written by Dhruv Kumar and discusses concepts of discoid migration and the predicament of migrant workers.

I. Interstate migrant workers formulated perturbation

Helpless migrant workers fell even deeper into the well of perturbation suddenly after the expansion of the first lockdown during covid-19 i.e. 3rd May 2020.[1] Migrant workers quested support at various transportation stations all over the country and demanded to be sent to their hometowns with quick measures.

Protests also took place where migrant workers were hugely involved and asked to be protected and provided livelihood as their daily bread and butter was also blocked. Since the 2020 lockdown, around 2 million migrant workers were stuck in Mumbai due to covid-19 as per the facts stated by the trade unions joint action committee. Disputes and violence between police and migrant workers were omnipresent in India.

As per the information given by the Mazdoor Ekta Union, migrant workers were not able to go back to their hometowns due to the closedown of every public transport bar none. In a way, migrant workers developed a sense of organizing structuring themselves systematically when they failed to achieve their wishes forcefully by engaging in illegal protests but were listened to when they were ready for peaceful movements.

II. Positive steps were taken by NGOs during covid-19[2]

During the melancholy period of covid-19, some devoted NGOs contributed to the best of their abilities to help poor and needy interstate migrant workers.

Some enthusiastic NGOs are namely: City makers mission international in Delhi, Centre for Advocacy and Research Maharashtra, The Research Collective in Delhi, Youth for Voluntary Action, in Maharashtra, Pratham in Gujarat, Jan Sahas in Maharashtra, CORO India in Maharashtra Mumbai Mobile Creches in Delhi and Maharashtra, Praxis in Delhi, Aajeevika Bureau in Maharashtra and Gujarat, Quarantined Student Youth Network in Delhi and Maharashtra, Haqdarshak in Gujarat, Vigyan Foundation in Delhi and Haryana, Indo-Global Social Service Society in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Haryana, Aid et Action in Delhi, National Alliance Group for Denotified and Nomadic Tribes in Delhi.

Certainly, various NGOs got huge assistance and support from India Migration Now, a research group based in Mumbai. India has witnessed such huge synergy over the past many years as NGOs also got encouragement positive response from the government of India for practicing numerous relief activities for the betterment of migrant workers throughout the country.

III. Infringement of rights of migrant workers during the pandemic

Migrant workers were kept aloof from the social security they should have provided and only got some compensation in terms of satisfying their economic needs. Even some of the Fundamental rights were not considered while making policies for the general public, especially for the migrant workers.

Migrant workers still have their rights with them but very few of them got justice when found themselves trapped as most of the governmental and administrative authorities were busy handling the spread of covid-19.

Social security was a major concern for the substandard community of migrant workers even in their host states. Above all India needs to focus on developing a national migration information system. Within this framework, it becomes vital for the states to maintain correct data of interstate migrant workers vis-à-vis in times of such crisis and at the same time Guarantee the inter-ministerial management to give social security and wellbeing rights.[3]

Problems and loopholes started highlighting during the beginning of the pandemic as there was a lack of proper policies and management from both the parties i.e. government and ordinary citizens.[4] The economy was shattered simultaneously hopes of millions of Indians mostly the migrant workers also were falling apart.

Fault and error can be seen when the policies made were not being implemented effectively which raised the question of the Epidemic Disease Act(123 years old), made just for handling such disasters. All level governments got to know the discrepancies existing in the country through this revelation.

Management of crisis proved to be challenging for the district administration bodies as well as municipal bodies and Panchayati Raj institutions as police had to deal with an oblivious population at ground level and also with the growing disordering demands of migrant workers.

The government on all levels had to take quick and effective steps to fulfil the reasonable demands of distressed migrant workers such as providing sufficient transportation and food on an urgent basis. District officers, superintendents of police, and magistrates also had the responsibility to pass quick, adequate, and just laws for the swift recovery of the loss.

On 9th June 2020, an order was passed by the three-member bench of the honourable supreme court commanded by justice Ashok Bhushan and other renowned judges SK Kaul and MR Shah. In this order states and the union, territories were asked to follow strict guidelines of returning the migrant workers back to their homes who were stranded by post lockdown phase 1.

Alongside the apex court also directed the concerned authorities to improve the living conditions of the migrant workers and introduce job opportunities and welfare programs for the amelioration of migrant workers who lost their employment.

Transportation was to be easily accessible to the migrant workers within the period of 15 days in regards to which railways were asked to provide transportation available within 24 hours if demand increases as further directed by the supreme court.[5] Identification of migrant workers was the first and foremost job for the state and union territories governments.

Although regulating such huge crises was arduous, the government tried its best in curbing out the problems relating to migrant workers up to a certain extent. NDMA-GIS portal was an initiative that was present since 2005 in India which focused on building a safer and disaster resilient India by adopting holistic, pro-active, technology-driven approaches, and as expected NDMA-GIS portal helped in creating the National Migrant Information System plan as initiated by the government.[6]

This portal is relied upon to be kept up with as a central repository and assist the sending with welling getting State and District. Nearly about 80 million migrants were allocated Rs. 3,500 crore by the government of India on May 14 for food aid purposes and the above-mentioned information is the most accurate official estimate available for the number of migrant workers distressed during the pandemic.

With proper and adequate food with other necessities, the government also concentrated on giving employment opportunities to returned migrant workers in various sectors like rural infrastructure, building homes construction of roads, and other large-scale jobs where there was an urgent need for labour.

IV. The arrival of covid-19 and its effects on migrant workers

Under the governance of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, 21 days absolute lockdown was imposed in India from 25th March 2020. The lockdown was eventually lengthened due to the rising covid-19 cases.

The susceptibility of migrant workers was slowly and gradually revealed. Infringement of social, political, economic, and most importantly health rights of interstate migrant workers came up in the picture and was completely transparent as the miseries of workers can’t be concealed at such a large scale.

Governmental Policies and schemes were becoming inutile in administering and implementing the same for the migrant workers. Furthermore, schemes, which formerly existed didn’t gain their significance and weren’t implemented as desired by the migrant workers.

Before formulating new policies and schemes for the welfare of migrant workers, the target should be on accomplishing the existing schemes in the best possible and most effective manner.[7]

It was not evident to perceive the upcoming changes in the economic and social system of the country. On account of the extension of the lockdown, many of the factories, transport systems, offices, shops, industrial sectors, shopping centres were contrived to be closed down.

As a consequence of which thousands of migrant workers unwillingly have to stay at home, doing nothing to earn daily bread. Nutritional level and basic necessities were vanishing rapidly leaving the poor migrant workers distant from obtaining basic quality of life as they had to live without daily wages.

Migrant workers did not even face the loss of jobs and employment in the industrial sector rather they were also neglected and dismissed from working at homes because they were considered the nearest possible threat to human survival as they are poor and vulnerable sections of the society who might be having Covid-19 symptoms.[8]

The migrant workers who were left out from getting removed from the jobs were forced to lay hold of decreased wages as the condition of continuing work. This made the conditions of migrants even worse as now not only there was reduced salary and loss of livelihood but also loss of energy and insufficient nutrition consumption.

The Health crisis was at its peak especially for the poor vulnerable classes of the society who didn’t have enough surplus of grains and elemental nutrition.

Ineffectiveness of the government and administration in ensuring adequate facilities provided to the migrant workers activated exodus. The norm of keeping physical distance was disposed of and social distancing was hard to follow whether it was these migrant workers or else for the administration and the police officials to make them follow the principle of social distancing at such a huge level.

The challenge was from the sides but the enormous population was not letting the strict implementation of policies framed and regulated.

From every part of the country, no matter south or north India, every migrant worker was looking for an opportunity and desperately arduous to safely head back to their respective hometowns or residential places at a swift pace, it was becoming very hard for the migrant workers to follow and adhere to the strict guidelines of the government who requested the people to stay at their homes and only come out for the necessities.

Basic services were lacking in the host states and the government failed to ensure social and economic protection which lead to the movement of ill-fated migrant workers. These migrant workers were visualized crossing the borders resulting in health problems and deficiency of nutrition in the bodies as they has to steadily walk for hours in the flare sunlight.

This reflected the incredible difficulties faced by the migrant workers during the lockdown which was massive to believe.

Interstate migrant workers were not in a position to follow the directions to citizens to stay in the host State. The visuals of ill-fated migrant workers walking away from Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, and Maharashtra towards interstate borders are clear shreds of evidence of lack of social protection and access to basic services in these host states. All the four states covered by our study had witnessed migrant workers fleeing lockdown on foot.

A massive movement of migrant workers back to their native villages highlighted the difficulties that have accompanied the lockdown. Many landlords forced interstate migrant workers tenants who are unable to pay rent to leave the host States. They couldn’t continue in cities amid inflationary times due to sudden disruption in supply chains of essential commodities and commodity scarcities.

They were bereft of savings and social security. Moreover, they were wary of the outsider tag and some of the respondents have even complained about the police harassment. All the State governments with the support of the Government of India had taken several relief measures to reduce the burden of interstate migrant workers during the lockdown. These include temporary accommodation, food, water, etc.

In addition, various voluntary agencies and individuals provided different types of help to them. For instance, Stranded Workers Action Network, a group of volunteers provided food and shelter.

Numerous landowners constrained highway transient specialists inhabitants who can’t pay rent to leave the host States.[9] It was incomprehensible for them to proceed in urban communities amid inflationary occasions because of unexpected disturbance in supply chains of fundamental items and product shortcomings.

Indeed, they were dispossessed of reserve funds and social securities. Additionally, they were careful about the pariah tag and a portion of the respondents have even grumbled about the police provocation. All the State legislatures with the help of the Government of India had gone to lengths to lessen the weight of interstate migrant workers during the lockdown.

These incorporate transitory convenience, food, water, and so forth, different deliberate offices and people gave various kinds of help to them. For example, Stranded Workers Action Network, a coup of volunteers gave food and sanctuary.

Since the host State couldn’t care for them a few of them had chosen to get back to their home state as they were getting by on restricted alleviation exercises of government and good cause of public. Truth be told, they have contributed fundamentally by giving a wide scope of administrations, constructing industries, and the economy.

Data gathered from upset labourers across the States uncovers their weakness because of the absence of social assurance and fundamental administrations. A great many migrants whose livelihoods had fallen are dealt with ineffectively.

Delicate pictures of hundreds and thousands of migrant labourers, strolling for a significant distance and miles on parkways, with sacks on their shoulders, holding youngsters or older close by, trusting that modes for transport will get back, have characterized India’s disregard of highway transient specialists.

These awful scenes were the consequence of their hand-to-mouth presence by relying upon low wages to support themselves and the shortfall of any long-lasting social wellbeing net.

V. Conclusion:

Most states despite their efforts remained ineffective in regulating the movement of migrant workers and also screening them properly. It is astonishing to note that even after the existence of a plethora of legislation and labour standards at the national and international level, there still remains a wide gap between the basic human rights of labourers and the legal framework governing their rights.

Policymakers need to take a practical approach towards the protection of the rights of the migrant labourers as their social situation is already difficult. Covid-19 outbreak underlined the grave inadequacies in the policy of Disaster Management constructed by the Government of India.

In this manner, it very well may be inferred that there exist inconsistencies in India’s pandemic and crisis replication techniques that should be examined critically. The technique, which builds the incorporation of all parts of the intramural migrants’ local area in the public eye, particularly kids and ladies, ought to be more empathetic.

It is suggested that in advance of presenting any enactment that could affect the existence of the majority, the public should be taken into certainty.



[2]Pankaj Anand, How NGOs have silently helped Indians combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Available Here.

[3]Chitranjali Negi Advocate, Human Rights Violations of Migrants Workers in India During COVID-19 Pandemic, Available Here.

[4]Policies, Politics, and Pandemics, Available Here.

[5]Krishnadas Rajagopal, Coronavirus lockdown | Migrant workers should not be prosecuted, says Supreme Court, Available Here.


[7] Jacob John, Naveen Joseph Thomas, Megha Jacob, Neha Jacob, A Study on Social Security and Health Rights of Migrant Workers in India, Available Here.

[8]OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19), What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrants and their children?, Available Here.

[9]Diana Olick, Small landlords struggle as renters either can’t or choose not to pay amid coronavirus layoffs, Available Here.

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Updated On 2 Dec 2021 6:33 AM GMT
Dhruv Kumar

Dhruv Kumar

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