Lockdown Diaries

The Walking Migrants

The new normal for the Walking Migrants_Lockdown Diaries

We all started getting hints that where humanity may lead in the next few years almost more than a decade ago or maybe two, but what we are going through no one expected ever apart from some Hollywood movie writers. Strange times for all of us, nature at its best that this generation ever experienced but cannot go out to indulge in it. No honking and air pollution in megacities like Delhi and Dhaka, NO2 levels at it’s lowest, rivers are cleanest we ever saw in recent history and what amazing not.

But in between all this, there is a system which broke down completely, except few nations no one was able to hold on to this. COVID showed that it didn’t break any system but it exposed a broken system. From domestic violence in western countries to hunger in Africa to migrant labors walking home for thousands of miles defeating these fancy roads they made once for rich people to drive their fancy cars with closed windows so that dust cannot touch their face coved with multinational creams made using expensive ingredients grown after chopping some sacred rain forest and maybe displacing tribals as well.

A migrant worker rides a cart with his family on a highway as they return to their villages, during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

This is not a good time to criticize anyone, but maybe time to help and understand the root cause of the problem. The problems are slapping our faces every single day. Personally, I am not able to think and sleep after going through constant pictures and videos of laborers walking miles back to their homes. Hundreds of them die because of several reasons on the roads, some died because of a goods train ran over them, some died because of trucks hit them while walking on the main roads, some died of heat and hunger after walking or cycling in this heat, some died just a few kilometers before their villages, some committed suicide, some women gave birth to the child on the road, took rest for 2 hours and started walking again, and there are endless stories and shows how blind we all are. We are suffering from poor blindness, in this disease we cannot see and are not sensitive towards the poor, and the brown British running this country are suffering from this disease since forever.

 

I remember thinking about the internal migration issue in India as my college project for one of the subjects because I was aware that how serious this problem is. From thousands of ghost villages of Uttarakhand to millions of people moving from eastern poor states of India (like Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, etc.) to other parts of the country in search of work. As their states cannot sustain them, give them enough jobs, or make their life at least happier. These people live a second-grade life in their villages because of caste or economic barriers and a third-grade life in the cities because of pseudo-slave culture. Sometimes they move because they seek a better education for their kids and sometimes they move with the dream of a better life. Which we are not able to provide them in their small villages and towns.

Mass migration is an issue that everyone in this country ignored for decades but now exposed by Corona. We don’t know where our people are working and if they are paid enough that at least they can uplift their family from that level of poverty from where they started. Are we sure that they are not working like slaves in unknown cities(recent incidence of Bangalore builder lobbies making train unavailable for workers in fear of non-availability in the future) or if they are mentally in a healthy state? The issue of mass migration broke the fabric of our rural Indian society (needless to say it was already rotted because of the caste system) but I was always scared for a situation like this where one day they may face something bad in the cities but no one will be able to help them, not because of zeal to help them but because of lack of optimum infrastructure. We failed to accommodate and help the number of people who really needed help.

India in a country of villages and even Gandhi said after the independence of India that please start the development of this country from villages otherwise there will be consequences, maybe even he was aware of this challenge. But after independence/partition we were busier in creating beautiful cities, and not really focusing on our villages. Slowly they ran out of schools, hospitals, basic infrastructure, and darkness of local politics. Leaving no other option for people but to leave for shining and promising cities. Even the recent government policy of creating 100 smart cities and not 10,000 smart villages is a mirror of this rotten idea.

What will really happen when we will only focus on cities, invest in infrastructure only in cities, public transports, schools, hospitals, public spaces, etc. We will attract the population from villages and small towns to these places; which will force us to put more money in infrastructure projects here and making it less for small towns and villages. This whole chain, I named “Theory of Vicious Circle of Wrong Investment” in my college project. Where our constant effort to avoid villages makes people move to cities. India is a country of 7000+ cities & towns and 6,50,000+ villages, we need to think again that what we are destroying at a rapid speed, our villages.

Even after all this is over, we need to ask this question again that do we really want to create the solutions or go ahead with the status quo. We need to think about our villages, people living there, and the issue of mass migration. All of this needs a new system and people who are not suffering from this specific blindness.

Walking Migrants being disinfected after entering a particular district border In the state of Uttar Pradesh

The new normal which I wish for our villages, small towns, labors, and poor population is beautiful villages free from caste and economic oppressions, world-class schools for kids (a lot of them still don’t even have toilets), health care system and environment for work and job creation. So, they need to come to cities only to realize how amazing their villages and small towns are! Sounds utopian, but possible because there is enough for everyone’s need but never enough for everyone’s greed.

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