Tragedy Befalls on Labourers Again
India is experiencing a surge in an upward trend in cases and fatalities despite its stringent Lockdown. India is going in a geometric linear way and will witness its peak in the next 3-4 weeks. The worst-affected due to the lockdown, subsequent to the coronavirus outbreak, have been the ones who were on a daily wage regime, with no backup funds or a steady salary that they can depend on in times like these. Hunger is their bigger enemy than Coronavirus. It is important to note the sheer geographical expanse of the country and the kilometres that the workers are willing to walk in the middle of this lockdown, just to see their family carrying limited belongings. Many are trudging great distances in the blistering heat through fields and forests to get home. This morning the whole country has got disheartened and anguished as a train in western India ran over migrant workers sleeping on the tracks, killing sixteen among a group of people returning to their villages. The sight was horrifying. There are many such harrowing examples. While some state governments are taking proactive measures to welcome them back, some states are overwhelmed by their existing numbers. The labours do not have food, money and security. They are restless and COVID is the cause and effect of it. While everyone is suffering, the developing world will be hardest hit. The Covid-19 pandemic could push 49 million people, including 12 million Indians, across the world into extreme poverty, estimates World Bank. The lockdown is not the end of the story. This disease is going to be with us for a long time until a vaccine arrives, which is not anytime soon. The policymakers need to think of a clear, well-articulated plan on what should be done next. The economy was already facing a slump and the coronavirus has added to the demand slump. The government can think of ways to bail out people who could be facing poverty because of loss of earnings. Large-scale, integrated, policy measures are needed, focusing on supporting enterprises, employment and incomes, stimulating the economy and jobs, protecting workers in the workplace; and, using social dialogue between government, workers and employers to find solutions. Sooner the better.