Migrant Workers Solidarity Network is a network of trade-union activists, social activists, students, workers and concerned citizens who are active in different parts of India. The pandemic had urged us to streamline as a nationwide network to address the problems of stranded migrant workers. We came in direct contact with 45000 workers stranded so far in different locations through a helpline in 10 different languages. Besides acting as a nodal link between the state authorities and migrant workers so that they can avail different welfare schemes, we have also tried to provide relief to them in our very limited capacity.
Many significant issues related to the migrants surfaced during this entire period. Cases of wage cut as well as non-payment of wages were very much prevalent. Almost all the states authorities had meagre arrangements for food and shelter for the stranded workers. The cry for home return remained yet to be addressed adequately and many times had met with brutal police actions. Indeed, this crisis exposed that the central government and all the state governments lacks the necessary governing infrastructure to address the issues of stranded migrant workers properly. There is neither provision for registration nor documentation of the huge informal sector migrants in any of the states in India, leave aside the scope for interstate coordination in this regard. Inter State Migrant Workmen’s Act, 1979 though having some provisions for the benefit of the migrant workers, like all other Labour Laws in present time, is very much limited and utter negligence on the part of central and state administrations to implement it. This law too, has been repealed along with many other laws in the four new Labour Codes. Apart from legal or administrative lackeys, even within the society, there are tendencies of looking at the migrants as carriers of 'disease', as cause of unemployment of the 'native' population. Migrants particularly in low-paid jobs face a lot of harassments.
The new dynamics of labour migration that has emerged after the economic reforms and neo-liberalization efforts of the 90's requires a newer kind of engagement on labour politics. The COVID-19 crisis has brought this to forefront. 'Migrant labourer'' is an umbrella category which includes working people engaged in almost all kinds of informal and formal sectors. With the present political and legal framework, the question of Citizens rights of the most of the migrant labourers gets severely compromised both in the host state and in the destination states. We would continue our struggle and efforts with the demand for a comprehensive legal and administrative framework for the citizenship rights as well as workplace rights of the migrant workers engaged in different sectors and locations.