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World

June 6, 2020

UN expresses dismay over India's treatment of migrant workers amid pandemic

World

Sat, Jun 06, 2020
Migrant labourers like these men in India are particularly vulnerable during the virus lockdown. — AFP/Files

LONDON/GENEVA: The United Nations Special Rapporteurs have expressed dismay over India's disregard for the well being of 100 million internal migrants amid the coronavirus lockdown.

The workers are suffering from intense hardships after transport services were closed across the country and many of them were forced to travel long distances on foot.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, and on extreme poverty, Olivier De Schutter said: “We are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant labourers, especially those who belong to marginalised minorities and lower castes.”

“Instead of ensuring the protection of their rights, the government has failed to address their dire humanitarian situation and further exacerbated their vulnerability with police brutality and by failing to stop their stigmatisation as virus carriers.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on housing expressed hope that the instructions of the Indian Supreme Court will be implemented to improve the situation of internal migrants who are stranded in intolerable conditions.

Earlier, the Indian Supreme Court had ordered the government to register the migrant workers and ensure that they could board a train or a bus for free.

The court had also asked the authorities to provide them with shelter, food and water until they reached their homes but the orders have not been implemented.

According to the United Nations: "Many internal migrants have also been assaulted by police for violating the 24 March lockdown orders, which had been issued abruptly for the general population and ignored the difficulties of vulnerable persons to comply."

The UN Special Rapporteurs have conveyed their concerns directly to the government of India but have not received any response.

“In the cities, they treat us like stray dogs, why would they treat us any better now?” textile worker Krishna Mohan Kumar had told the National Geographic.

The Indian government has announced a $266 billion fiscal package to boost the economy, which includes a further $463 million for the provision of food to 80 million migrant workers over two months, however, with unemployment figures touching 25% in rural India, it is unclear how India will recover from the impact of COVID-19.