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While Centre Has 'No Such Data' on Deaths of Migrant Labourers & Job Losses, Here's What Reports Say

Migrant workers return to the cities after the coronavirus lockdown was relaxed. (AP File)

Migrant workers return to the cities after the coronavirus lockdown was relaxed. (AP File)

According to a report by the International Labour Organisation and Asian Development Bank, 41 lakh jobs were lost in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Monday told Parliament that it has no data available on the number of migrant workers who lost their lives during the 68-day nationwide sudden lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Since no such data exists, there is ‘no question of giving compensation’ to victims’ next of kin, the Centre added.

Responding to a question on whether thousands of migrant labourers lost their lives during this period, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, through a written reply, said “no such data is available”. The government also said that it had not kept track of the job losses caused during the pandemic. “No such data is maintained,” it said.

According to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), 41 lakh jobs were lost in the country due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Another World Bank report issued in April this year said that the nationwide lockdown has impacted the livelihood of nearly 40 million internal migrants.

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Five million salaried people lost their jobs in July this year, the Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE) said. “17.7 million salaried jobs were lost in April 2020. An additional 0.1 million jobs were lost in May. Then, 3.9 million jobs were gained in June. But, 5 million jobs were lost in July," the CMIE data showed. Further, 37.5 million students have been out of campus.

According to a Save Life Foundation report published in June, 198 migrant workers died in road accidents while returning to their village homes during the coronavirus lockdown.

More than 1,400 road accidents killed 750 people, including 198 migrant workers, between March 25 and May 31, according to the Save Life Foundation, a charity that works towards improving road safety and emergency care in India.

The migrants lost their lives while walking, cycling and travelling in trucks and vans in intense heat, as well as in massive crashes involving state-organised buses, it said, blaming speeding and driver fatigue.

Researchers Thejesh GN, Kanika Sharma and Aman state the number of non-virus deaths was as high as 971 till 4 July of which over 200 died due to starvation.

Compiling information from news reports, the database put together by the group, which describes itself as “freelance scholars and student volunteers interested in action-oriented research, socio-economic rights and related issues”, shows that a large number of people have died due to reasons such as road accidents while walking back to their homes, starvation, denial of medical care, police brutality, exhaustion, suicides – all consequences of the lockdown.

Meanwhile, asked if the government had failed to assess the issues faced by these labourers, the Centre said, “India, as a nation, has responded through the Central government, state governments, local bodies, self-help groups, Resident Welfare Associations, medical health professionals, sanitation workers as well as large number of genuine and bonafide non-governmental organisations in the nation’s fight against the unprecedented human crisis due to the outbreak of Covid – 19 and country-wide lockdown, including Tamil Nadu.”

The Centre added that more than 4,611 Shramik Special trains were run by the Indian Railways to help the labourers return home. “More than 63.07 lakh migrant workers have been shifted to various destinations located in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and other States. Food and water was also provided free of cost to the workers during their journey,” it said.