The migrant workers struggling in wake of India’s Covid response

Amrit Dhillon 

When Ram Yadav fled India’s strict countrywide lockdown imposed in March 2020, he was one of the lucky ones, managing to hitch rides from Delhi on trucks going in the direction of his village near Kanpur, 400km (250 miles) away. An estimated 10 million workers were forced to walk home, travelling on foot via fields, forests and highways in the scorching sun.

The day Yadav, 34, a construction worker, reached his village, he vowed never to return to the city. “I felt betrayed twice: by society, because no one around me lent a hand – my landlord kicked me out – and by the state. I trusted [the prime minister Narendra] Modi to help me in a once-in-a-lifetime crisis,” he says.

But when he failed to find any work in his village, he had no choice but to return to the city, only to find himself in an even worse situation than before. Like millions of others, he is poorer, hungrier and feels more abandoned than ever in the wake of the pandemic.

An estimated 400 million people work in India’s informal sector, on low daily wages and with no contract, pension, paid holidays or health benefits. The vast majority are not unionised as they are migrant labourers, scattered all over the country, who speak different languages…..