Author: Sonakshi Singh, Student at Siddhartha Law College.
The title of the paper itself makes it clear about the article. The virus has totally disturbed the lives of thousands and millions of people worldwide. We still have to suffer the loss and the consequences. That period of time, when no one was allowed to move out of their homes, has left a scar on our lives forever. On this completion of 1 year, we need to peep back and learn a lesson from our mistakes. The labour class has suffered the most in this global lockdown. They were the one migrating throughout the country, during the pandemic, just to get to their home. They were not even provided with sufficient basic amenities and they were travelling in packs, which was the most dangerous act at that time. Their rights and their lives both were put to risk in the lockdown and no appropriate arrangements were made for them. So one of the biggest bad on the part of our nation was mismanagement of labourers, when the lockdown was announced. So the paper tries to bring out every minute detail that leads to the violation of the rights of labourers. It discuss the rights of the labourers provided to them under the Indian Constitution as well the duties which the state have towards them. Now, when India is again witnessing lockdowns in certain areas due to increase in cases of corona virus despite the presence of the vaccine, we need to take appropriate steps so that the mistakes done previously does not arise again, the suffering does not emerge again and the phase can be passed without any downcast images.
The world faced the darkest phase of the living in the form of a virus. The organism that cannot be seen from naked eyes has portrayed such a horrible and pathetic scene where 1000s of dead people were lying. This was the worldwide pandemic Coronavirus. Approximately 219 nations today, are still suffering from covid 19. India is also one of the nation, in which, this pandemic took a dangerous phase. The nation underwent a total shutdown for 70 days and was unlocked by 10 phases. The economic wheel which was till now helping India in its growth and development has also stopped as a result of this lockdown. The people suffering the most in this lockdown state are workers of our nation. The nationwide lockdown in India has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants. The lockdown has taught the human beings the need for struggle; struggle for livelihood, for rights and for freedoms.
The World Bank recently in his report released on 22 April 2020 has said that: “The lockdown in India has impacted the livelihood of a large proportion of the country’s nearly 40 million internal migrants. Within few days, approximately 50,000-60,000 of people moved to rural zone from urban regions.” It further added that – “Governments need to address the challenges faced by internal migrants by including them in health services and cash transfer and other social programs, and protecting them from discrimination.”
The labour class of India is facing a serious phase of this lockdown as they don’t have adequate supply of food, sanitation etc. They can’t even get to their homes. The government needs to introduce some best policies within a specified period for the best interests of the labour class citizen of India.
CONSTITUTION AND LABOUR RIGHTS
Along with the moral rights, the constitutional rights were also violated which included certain articles such as:
The Constitution of India under articles 14-16, 19(1)(c), 23-24, 38, and 41-43A directly concern labour rights.
An obligation has been laid on the state to apply the principles enshrined under Article 38-39 and Article 41-43A while making laws. Article 38(1) reads that state should work in order to promote people’s welfare by providing a social order in which justice – socio, economic and political shall be provided to all establishments of life. National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 provides for right to work created by Article 41. Provisions for fixing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief by the state have been provided under Article 42.
Article 43 says workers should have the right to a living wage and “conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life”.
Thus, all the above articles enshrined under the constitution gives the labour right to work, adequate wages, social security which includes food, shelter, sanitation and healthy living. The government is under an obligation to provide the facilities and protect the rights of the labour class. The constitution itself has created this obligation through these articles enshrined under the fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy (DPSP).
LABOUR ISSUES IN LOCKDOWN
The issues that were faced by the labourers in 2020 lockdown were many. Out of those some which were brought under the light are mentioned below.
The government of India has announced a nationwide shutdown to cope up with the issue of Coronavirus. But this shutdown which on one hand has helped India to restrict the spread of Coronavirus, it has on the other hand, created problems for the labour class.
They don’t have appropriate food to eat in this situation. Due to this lockdown, all the general stores and other public approachable stores are being shut and as a result of this, the labourers cannot buy food like vegetables, wheat flour etc. Thus, they don’t have adequate supply of food. Also, they cannot withdraw the cash from the bank or atm, and therefore they even don’t have money to buy the stuff of daily necessities. A recent news from a daily newspaper Dainik Bhaskar shows that as the labourers are not able to buy or get food, therefore they are feeding biscuits and water to their children’s to keep them alive.
Moreover, there are no means of transportation in order to get them home. The migrant workers, who were leaving away from their family and village in order to work are stuck in between the lockdown. They cannot get back to their homes and villages due to the lack of transportation facilities. They have to walk thousands of miles just to get to their homes. Although the Union government has announced shrank special trains for them but in order to send them back to their villages but some of the state government like that of Karnataka has refused to allow the train to enter in their states due to the fear of Covid 19. They are thus, left out, stranded and without adequate food and cash.
In an unfortunate incident reported on April 21, a 12 year old girl died after walking over 100 km when she was just 11 km away from her home. She was coming back to her village in Chattisgarh’s Bijapur district from her work place in Bhupalpally district of Telangana. This disturbing image is not just one.
Another incident as reported by Hindustan times was of 7 workers who walked 1800 km from Mumbai to Jharkhand to reach their homes. They trekked up to 45 km per day and going without food sometimes.
A pregnant woman who was walking with her family from Nasik to Satna (about 1026km) has interrupted her journey and gave birth and then walked for next 160 km with her new born to get home, as reported by CNN.
A recent study conducted by SWAN (State Wide Area Network) which was released on 2nd May showed that almost 72% of labourers returning home has run out of ration provided by the local state government and cash. Moreover, many of them did not received their wages for the month of March.
This is not an end. There are many more disturbing images of workers walking for miles amid the corona lockdown just to get home. Every disturbing image has it’s own story of travelling miles, without adequate food and money, in this climate where temperature has reached almost 40°C in most of the states, with just a dream to get back to their roots, their family, their villages.
Time passes by but it surely takes time for people to heal from the wounds of the past. The lock down is no more but the impact is still there. The nation is already unlocked but the wheels will take time to get back on their normal track. The lockdown taught us many things but the most important of them is the continuance of struggle, struggle to live, survive, to get your freedoms and rights and also to fight for them. It is a time for the government to take adequate steps and measures to protect the interest of these laborers by adopting an appropriate policy. After the completion of 1 year also, we are facing the same danger. Despite having a vaccine, some of the states are undergoing lockdown. The cases are rising up day by day. We need to learn from the past actions and need to get some strong policies and preventive actions so that the mistakes done previously cannot be repeated again. We ought to take appropriate measures so that if any situation arises like those which were in 2020 lockdown, we can deal with that firmly. We should not let our mistakes of the past to be repeated again and should work for the betterment of the labour classes of our country. The loss which they have suffered need to be rectified and this can be done only by learning from the past and coming up with strong policies in future.
 Constitution of India, Article 38 (1)