COVID-19 Pandemic: An Attempt to Understand the Plight of Migrant Workers

migrant_workers_sapne

Yesterday I had a late lunch. Extremely late lunch! Lately, cleaning mania has taken over me and yesterday I went on a cleaning spree, and by the time I was done, it was a quarter past three. By then, hunger pangs had started, and I could feel the sharp stabs in my stomach. The hunger was making me angry.

Thankfully, there was gravy leftover from last night, and with a quick bowl of steamed rice, lunch was ready. As the pressure cooker was leisurely cooling down, my patience was going down as well. Finally, as I took the first bite and as the homely food filled me with warmth, I could feel all my senses calming down.  Even though it was a simple meal, I enjoyed it thoroughly. As I continued eating, my mind started wandering, and it stopped at a particular image—the image of a migrant labourer crying.

With every bite I took, I started thinking of those helpless people. I couldn’t help it—the horrid images were flashing in front of my eyes. I reasoned, I was in the comfort of my home, confident that food was there, but just one late meal made me angry, caused me distress.

And there they were, walking hundreds of miles, to their home, without food or water. Without any certainty, when they will reach their destination. They didn’t miss a meal—they were starving for days.

Tears filled my eyes; I questioned why didn’t the government help the migrant labourers? Why didn’t they provide facilities for them? I was perplexed, at the thought of government bringing home NRI’s and people stuck in abroad, while labourers were walking home.

Arent these labourers the real builders of our nation?! Developing our county, one brick at a time? Don’t they deserve help?

While the political parties of our country engaged in dirty politics, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the poor were dying. While educated people in Delhi were stealing mangoes from an unattended mango stall, the poor were falling due to starvation. While we debated about YouTube Vs TikTok, the feet of the poor were bleeding. While we lay in the comfort of our homes, the poor desperately hoped to reach home alive.

It finally struck me- It doesn’t matter what the situation is, the poor suffer the most. Natural calamities, riots, famine, economic hardships, or pandemics, they face the brunt of it like no other.

And it’s not just the migrant labourers. It’s street food vendors, maids, janitors, blacksmiths and most of the blue-collar workers.

All of us, have seen the momowala, chaiwala or samosawala anna/bhaiya outside our school, colleges or office campuses. Taking a sip of tea, we would crib about how we were overworked and underpaid, how we would quit everything and follow our dream, how it’s better to be chai wale bhaiya and be our own boss than working in  9-5 offices hunched over our laptops. We would all secretly talk how, the street food vendors, if hit jackpot with the right place and perfect taste, can make a lot of money.

However, now, all the street food vendors and small business are closed. And even after it re-opens, people would be hesitant to indulge freely in street food like before. People would not hire maids unless absolutely necessary. Further, with employees working from home, and schools shut down, janitors are left jobless. I contemplated that, these people, don’t have a fixed job like us, they don’t have health insurance, and if they were not wise enough to save when they had good cash flow, would they survive this pandemic. What would kill them first? COVID or poverty?

I snickered that while my worries were not being able to order desserts, some poor soul was worrying about finding drinking water.  While I complained about not having a social life, some needy person was looking for employment.  It made me realise how minuscule our problems were compared to them. How unimportant it is, in the face of real-world issues.

I lay thinking, how can I help them? My sympathy would be of no use; my tears would be of no use. All I can do is pray, be grateful, and write. 

Pray that, help reaches the unprivileged people. Grateful that I have food on my plate, money to buy that food, and a job to earn that money. And ultimately, to write, so that my words would make the readers reflect and perhaps would make them empathetic, aware, and more understanding of their fellow beings in these desperate dark times.

An oddball writer | Compulsive Reader | Books, Music, and Movie loving ambivert human | Ardent foodie with a particular weakness to chocolates and chai | Dog-lover, Cats beware. Follow Bookstagram: https://instagram.com/theoddball_diary

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