There is no data on migrant deaths so the “question does not arise” of compensation, the Union labour ministry said in parliament on Monday to a question on whether families of those who had lost their lives while trying to reach home in the coronavirus lockdown had been compensated. The government’s written response in Lok Sabha on the first day of the monsoon session triggered anger and criticism from the opposition.
The ministry admitted that more than 1 crore migrants made their way back to their home states from various corners of the country.
In the session – the first since the countrywide lockdown was imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic — the ministry was asked whether the government has any data on migrant workers who returned to their states.
The ministry was also asked whether the government was aware that a number of migrant workers lost their lives during return to the hometown and the details if any. The Government was also asked about the economic assistance or compensation given to such families.
In his written response, Union labour minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar said, “No such data is maintained. Question does not arise in view of the above”.
“Shocking that the labour ministry says it has no data on migrant deaths and hence no question of compensation,” the Congress’s Digvijaya Singh said. “Sometimes I feel we are blind or the government feels it can take everyone for granted,” he added.
Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a countrywide lockdown in March, lakhs of migrant workers, desperate without jobs or shelter – many were evicted from their homes – started for their hometowns on foot or whatever vehicle they could manage.
With their sources of income drying up overnight, the labourers walked for days, tired, hungry and ailing; many died before they could reach home -reports of which from across the country made it to headlines.
Facing protests and opposition criticism, the Centre asked states to seal borders. After weeks of tragic images of migrants on roads, the centre started running special trains for the labourers.
But because of a confusion over who was to pay for the tickets and the mismanagement of lists, many labourers continued to find their way home on foot, three-wheelers and illegal trucks, sometimes leading to accidents.