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Dehumanising Treatment of Migrants In UP

While millions of citizens are following the strict countrywide lockdown, thousands of migrant workers are being forced to move from urban areas to their rural villages due to their inability to afford urban lifestyle without earning their daily wages. These workers are being made to travel for hours on end by foot due to the lack of transport and constant government pressure to remain indoors.

This mass exodus of migrant workers has made headlines as government authorities are trying to handle the situation due to the fear of spreading the coronavirus to the distant villages as well. However, many dehumanizing reports and images have surfaced which portrays the ill-treatment of the marginal working class.

Government Initiatives

In light of this mass movement, the state governments have made several announcements to prevent the continuation of this movement across states to ensure people remain within their homes.

The Central Government has asked State governments to provide shelter, food and basic essential items to the unorganized sectors. The State authorities are to provide free food grains through the mass Public Distribution System. Several governments including the Delhi and UP governments have asked landlords to not take rent for living accommodations and hostels to ensure shelter to the vulnerable sections. In Noida, around 600 workers were picked up by the administration after Thursday midnight and buses were arranged to take them to their destinations. There have also been attempts to set up community kitchens to ensure further food security to the poorest sections of society.

Mass Exodus Continues

However, these measures have proved to be inefficient as the mass exodus of the unorganized section continues. Many of these workers complain of no source of food or income and want to move back to their families in the villages. Even in the villages, many are forces to sleep in trees due to a lack of space in familial homes. These workers have been traveling for hours on foot, often covering more than 200km to reach their destinations. Many reports of these workers dying of exhaustion and dehydration have surfaced.

Spraying of Disinfectant

The ill-treatment of these daily wage workers reached absolute absurdity as workers returning to their homes were sprayed with bleach and disinfectant by officials in charge of disinfecting buses and vehicles in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

These workers had traveled by foot from Noida and Delhi to their villages only to be greeted by the dehumanizing treatment of disinfectant. Sources have stated that the disinfectant mainly contained Sodium Hypochlorite which is found in bleach.

Many workers who were waiting for food on the streets of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh were taken by surprise by officials and sprayed, often leaving the children crying. These chemicals are harmful to human beings and direct spraying is a great cause of health concerns. Bareilly District Magistrate Nitish Kumar responded to questions about the conduct of sanitation workers. In a tweet on Monday, the DM said that the video has been probed and those responsible are being summoned by orders of the chief medical officer (CMO). DM Nitish Kumar further adds, “Teams of Bareilly municipal corporation and fire brigade personnel were
instructed to sanitize buses but they did so (spray disinfectants on people) as a measure of extra precaution. Orders have been issued for action against concerned persons.

Plight of the Poor

Though several people had earlier shown disregard for the terrible conditions and the
desperation of these workers which lead to several demands asking these people to stay at home, thousands of angered tweets and reactions of people regarding the dehumanizing treatment of these poor workers who have no other alternative than to move back to their rural homes. Though the government had recently announced a financial package to benefit the poorest sections during these trying times, this percentage of the population continues to suffer the most. While this mass exodus does raise great concern regarding the spread of the virus to the most remote areas and increasing the number of infected by thousands, the misconduct of the officials in dealing with the plight of these individuals has raised many questions on India’s
ability to tackle this pandemic efficiently.

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