No data is available with the government on the number of migrant deaths that occurred due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 lockdown initiated on March 25, the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment informed the Parliament during the Monsoon Session on Monday. Many migrant workers lost their lives during the 68-day nationwide lockdown that was imposed in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The response by Union Ministry of Labour and Employment was given on a question raised in the Lok Sabha that sought information on the state-wise details of the death toll of migrant workers who lost their lives while trying to return to their native places after losing jobs amid the pandemic. The question also sought to know if any any compensation or economic aid was provided by the government to the families of the deceased.
The government was also questioned about its failure in assessing problems faced by the migrants during the lockdown, especially in Tamil Nadu. However, the Centre stated that there was no question of giving compensation to the victims' families as no data was maintained by the government.
"India, as a nation, has responded through the Central and state governments, local bodies, self-help groups (SHGs), Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), medical health professionals, sanitation workers as well as large number of genuine and bona-fide non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the nation’s fight against the unprecedented human crisis due to the outbreak of Covid –19 and country-wide lockdown, including in Tamil Nadu," said Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State (MoS), Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Over 1.04 crore migrant workers returned to their respective home states during the lockdown with Uttar Pradesh topping the list with 32.4 lakh workers, followed by Bihar (15 lakh) and Rajasthan (13 lakh), the minsitry informed the Parliament. More than 4,611 Shramik Special trains were run by the Railways since May 1 to ferry migrants to their home states and over 63.07 lakhs were shifted to various destinations in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and other states.
However, the railway ministry had earlier in August said that many migrant workers had begun returning to the cities where they worked, indicating that the economic activity had begun picking up after lockdown restrictions were eased by the government.
"The states/UTs have been advised to implement the advisory guidelines by quickly gearing up their labour Law enforcement machinery and ensuring statutory compliance by all the stakeholders which could provide migrant workers much needed help to mitigate the financial crisis and empower them to deal with the pandemic," the Labour Ministry said, adding that states/UTs had also been advised to maintain updated data on migrants to facilitate benefits of the government's welfare schemes for the workers.
Several migrant workers, who either walked or travelled in other private vehicles, met with accidents throughout the lockdown period. An analysis of news reports in national media shows that more than 100 migrant workers were killed in accidents since lockdown was initiated, while hundreds of others sustained grave injuries.
In an earlier report by News18, it was noted that these figures were based on accidents and incidents that were reported in the media and, therefore, the actual death toll could be higher than estimated.