The first phase of India’s nationwide lockdown the lockdown was for 21 days which was supposed to end on 14th April but amidst the coronavirus pandemic lockdown has been extended till May 3rd, 2020. 

India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people, is not among the worst affected by the pandemic. Not yet, as per the numbers, the current number of COVID-19 positive cases in India is 1149, among which 1306 have recovered, whereas the number of the death toll is 377. Seeing the situation, the government has taken the bold step to extend the lockdown as the previous lockdown phase was quite effective in containing the COVID-19 spread. The government has already said that the economy is not above the citizen’s life and hence they have decided to extend nationwide lockdown for the next 2.5 weeks. But the current condition is exposing once again India’s deep economic divide and the government’s apathy toward the workers who contribute to the country’s economic growth.

The worst affected social group by the current lockdown are the labourers, and more particularly the migrant workers who had left their homes for seeking odd jobs at various places. It’s ironic that the one who helped India to build its infrastructure is now suffering the most. The migrants are working both in urban and rural industries, services, construction and even in agriculture.

Earlier in the first stage of lockdown, a large number of migrants in Delhi came on the streets and started moving towards their hometown. The sudden announcement of lockdown caused panic among the migrant workers and they rushed towards the nearest bus stands causing a stampede like situation. When asked, most of them replied the same that- they are daily wage workers and don’t have enough money to survive in this lockdown when the companies are shut and all construction work has been stopped. 

The Finance Minister also came with the relief package of ₹ 1.7 trillion for the underprivileged, poor and migrant workers affected by a lockdown amid the COVID-19 crisis. Under which – the migrant, poorer section, below BPL population of the country will be provided with –

Under Pradjhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana: 800 million poor people in the country will get 5 kg of rice/wheat per month free of cost, in addition to the 5 kg they already get. Additionally, each household to get 1 kg of preferred pulses for free for the next three months

Construction workers: States to be directed to utilize ₹ 31,000 crore welfare fund for building and construction workers for the benefit of 35 million workers amid the coronavirus crisis

Beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme: 80 million households to get gas cylinders for free for the next three months in view of lockdown caused due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Women in self-help groups: under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya National Rural Mission scheme. 6.3 million SHGs to get up to ₹ 10 lakh collateral-free loans. 

Poor widows, aged, and divyang: Ex-gratia of ₹ 1,000 for the next three months, in two installments. 30 million people to benefit. 

MGNREGS: Wage increased from ₹ 182 to ₹ 202 per day. Wage increase to benefit 50 million families, as there will be about 2000 increase in their income.

The government’s effort is quite applaudable, but still- 

  • 40 crore workers in the informal economy are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the corona crisis
  • Full or partial lockdown measures are now affecting almost 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81 % of the world’s workforce.

In India, more than 80% of people work in the informal economy, they are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the COVID-19 crisis.

Well, after the lockdown extension, the ministry of labor and employment is working closely with state governments to limit the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on migrant workers.