The Centre informed the Parliament on Monday that no data was available on the deaths of migrant workers caused due to the sudden nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country this year.
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”.
On whether any compensation or relief was provided to the victim’s family, the government said, “Question does not arise in view of the previous question.”
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Additionally, the government said that it had also not kept track of the job losses amid the pandemic. “No such data is maintained,” it said.
According a World Bank report in April this year, the nationwide lockdown, which started on March 25, has impacted the livelihood of nearly 40 million internal migrants.
Small traders, hawkers and daily wage labourers were the worst hit by the lockdown in April, comprising 91.2 million of the jobs lost from the total loss of 121.5 million in that month.
“This category of employment accounted for about 32 per cent of the total employment but, it suffered 75 per cent of the hit in April. Large numbers of these people lost their source of livelihood so quickly because their employment is almost entirely informal,” Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had earlier said.
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 organizations 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.
Moreover, at least 110 migrants died on Railway premises during the operation of Shramik Special trains since May 1, according to sources.
Data from the states where nearly 63.07 lakh stranded migrants reached on 4,611 Shramik Specials indicate that the 110-odd deaths were caused by a variety of reasons, including pre-existing illness and Covid-19. Sources said a couple of deaths have not been taken into account as the bodies were found on tracks — apparently run over by trains.
In June, the Central Information Commission had earlier directed the Chief Labour Commissioner to upload all data regarding migrant workers stranded in shelters set up by governments or by employers at workplaces or those generally clustered in districts. It had also directed that the information must be updated from time to time.
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