SWAN’s third report outlines the perpetual plight of migrants in terms of food shortage, income insecurity and travel difficulties during the lockdown

SWAN’s third report outlines the perpetual plight of migrants in terms of food shortage, income insecurity and travel difficulties during the lockdown

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published Published on Jun 14, 2020   modified Modified on Jul 11, 2020

On June 5th this year, the Stranded Workers Action Network, comprising volunteers from various civil society groups, academics and students enrolled in university education, released its third report entitled ‘To Leave or Not to Leave? Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home’. Among other things, the latest report states that nearly four-fifth of migrant workers (out of 5,911) who called SWAN volunteers for help (altogether 821 distress calls were made) between May 15th and June 1st, could not access rations provided by the government.

Stranded migrants faced similar levels of food distress during the second half of May as it existed during the first phase of the COVID-19 lockdown i.e. during March 25th to April 14th. This happened despite the announcement of various schemes and relief measures/ packages by the Central and state governments, including the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) and Atmanirbhar Bharat.  

Chart 1: Percentage of people who have not received rations from the government

Source: To Leave or Not to Leave? Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home, prepared by Stranded Workers Action Network, please click here to access
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Chart-1 clearly shows that over 80 percent of people who called SWAN volunteers for help did not receive their rations from the government between May 15th and May 30th, 2020.

The first two SWAN reports had found that migrants were unable to access relief packages that were announced by the government. Those two reports, published earlier, highlighted that more than 82 percent of those who reached out to SWAN volunteers had not received any government rations and about 70 percent had not received any cooked food/ meal. About two-thirds of those who reached out till the second phase of lockdown had less than Rs. 100 left with them.

It needs to be mentioned here that SWAN’s first report entitled ‘21 Days and Counting: COVID-19 Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and the Inadequacy of Welfare Measures in India(released on April 14th, 2020) covered the period from 27th March, 2020 to 13th April, 2020. The time period more or less matches with the first phase of COVID-19 lockdown i.e. March 25th to April 14th. Kindly click here to access the key findings of the first SWAN report.

SWAN’s second report entitled ‘32 Days and Counting: COVID-19 Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and the Inadequacy of Welfare Measures in India(released on May 1st, 2020) covered the period 14th April, 2020 - 26th April, 2020. The time period approximately matches with the second phase of lockdown i.e. April 15th to May 3rd. Please click here to access the key findings of the second SWAN report.

Readers may note that the network (http://strandedworkers.in/) has been actively involved in relief work from March 27th in the form of zonal helplines by connecting workers to organisations and the government for rations. Its volunteers have interacted with about 34,000 workers across the country. Since many workers have been in dire need of cash for basic essentials, SWAN has solicited financial support from individuals who have directly transferred money to needy workers’ accounts. To date, SWAN has transferred more than Rs 50 lakhs directly to workers’ accounts.

Other major findings of SWAN’s third report

The latest report to a large extent covers the situation of migrants during the fourth phase of lockdown i.e. May 18th to May 31st. It has been found by the report that almost three-fourth of people (i.e. 76 percent) who called SWAN volunteers since May 15th had less than Rs. 300 left with them, whereas 72 percent of people had less than Rs. 200 left with them. Almost 63 percent of people had less than Rs. 100 left with them.

Roughly 57 percent of the people sent in ‘SOS’ calls (representing 820 people) with no money or rations left or had skipped the previous meal. It indicates a sharp hike of 7 percentage points in comparison to the second phase of lockdown.

The SWAN volunteers also collaborated with Gram Vaani (https://gramvaani.org/) -- a social tech company incubated out of IIT-Delhi -- to collect responses from 1,963 workers (to questions asked) using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) calls.

 
Chart 2: Stranded in host states and returned to home states or are en route

Source: To Leave or Not to Leave? Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home, prepared by Stranded Workers Action Network, please click here to access
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It was found during this IVR-based interactions that two-third (of 1,963) migrants were still stuck in the same place since the lockdown began, whereas only 33 percent were able to leave. Chart-2 shows that Jharkhand has the highest proportion of migrant workers (i.e. nearly 54 percent) who reached home.

Of those who were stuck, 55 percent (out of 1,166) were eager to return to their homes/ native place immediately. When the same set of workers were asked the question at the end of April this year, then only one-third wanted to leave immediately after the second phase of lockdown ended. This flies in the face of government claims that most migrants returned home and that Shramik special trains were no longer needed, says the latest SWAN report.

Almost three-fourth i.e. 75 percent (of 1,124) of migrants who were still stuck in places they had migrated to for work earlier, did not have any employment due to the lockdown. So, there were concrete economic reasons behind migrants' willingness to return back to home/ native place, instead of mere 'sentiments'.

About 44 percent of those who left took buses and 39 percent managed to get on Shramik special trains. Nearly 11 percent travelled in trucks, lorries and other such modes of transport while 6 percent just trudged back home, risking their lives.

The Supreme Court had issued an interim order on May 28th that migrants will not have to pay for travel. However, that order came too late, according to the latest SWAN report. Over 85 percent of the migrant workers who returned home or were in transit had to incur expenses for their journey. Of those who travelled, more than two-thirds had to pay more than Rs. 1,000 for the journey.

Chart 3: Loans taken

Source: To Leave or Not to Leave? Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home, prepared by Stranded Workers Action Network, please click here to access
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Out of 1,559 migrant workers, over 90 percent had taken loans during the lockdown period and about 15 percent had borrowed more than Rs. 8,000. Please check chart-3.

The latest report also provides the detailed testimonies of migrants highlighting the range of travel-related problems they faced.


References:

To Leave or Not to Leave? Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home, prepared by Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), released on 5th June, 2020, please click here to access

To Leave or Not to Leave: Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home: Third Report by Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), Center for Contemporary South Asia, Watson International & Public Affairs, Brown University, June 8th, 2020, please click here to access

32 Days and Counting: COVID-19 Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and the Inadequacy of Welfare Measures in India, prepared by Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), released on 1st May, 2020, please click here to access

32 Days and Counting: Second Report by the SWAN on Migrant Worker Distress and the (Extended) Lockdown, Center for Contemporary South Asia, Watson International & Public Affairs, Brown University, May 1st, 2020, please click here to access 

21 Days and Counting: COVID-19 Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and the Inadequacy of Welfare Measures in India, prepared by Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), released on 14 April, 2020, please click here and here to access

Two-thirds of migrant workers still don’t have access to government ration: Survey -Shagun Kapil, Down to Earth, 5 June, 2020, please click here to access

 

Image Coutesy: To Leave or Not to Leave? Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and Their Journeys Home, prepared by Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN), released on June 5th, 2020



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