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A simple solution to the ‘migrant workers’ crisis

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Clearly, some opposition parties ruling some States are playing politics of various hues at the cost of human lives. There are perceptions that sections of media are in cahoots are with them. Irrespective it is the regime ruling at the centre at whose door the buck passing shall end. The credit or discredit will go to it.

The manner in which from time to time crowds of migrant workers gathered in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad in response to fake news and continues to do, must cause grave anxiety to the ruling dispensation at the centre.

The frantic bid on the part of the migrant workers to return home in extreme hurry as if there is ‘no tomorrow’ continues despite the following facts:

(a) the centre agreed to feed 80 crore poor including the migrant workers for another 2 months; (b) the Indian Rail agreed to bear 85% of the train fare for carrying them back to their home States;  and (c) the MHA recently assured that Shramik Special Trains can carry them back to their home without consent from their home States. Chaos, confusion and panic are still pervasive. Alongside, some political parties continue to fish in troubled waters without pangs of slightest conscience!

Is there no way to give the migrant workers calm assurance so that they can wait patiently wait for their turn? Here are some suggestions:

The most useful help can come from the most ubiquitous communication device that is available to every migrant worker. It is nothing but ‘mobile’. This can be used in the present crisis in extremely useful manner such as below:

A brief simple mobile app in English, Hindi and few vernacular languages can be made available to every migrant worker intending to return home for registration purpose. This may be accomplished even without an ‘app’ through SMS to a special purpose dedicated number from feature phone.  He or she may be required to submit few essential info like:

(1) Name/s of self & family members (2) Present address (3) Code/ Identification No of ration shop nearest to their current residence  (4) Home State address

In reply a system generated response cum acknowledgement can be sent to the worker giving a unique serial number and a provisional date when the concerned worker will be called to fill in travel form. Calling the migrant workers to designated offices can be done in an orderly way keeping in view the social distancing norms. The current status of an applicant (through mobile) should be verifiable in a designated website to ensure complete transparency.

Keeping in view the reluctance of a few States to take back their own people which is bound to disrupt the return of the migrant workers, the Centre may for the time being bear 100% of the ticket cost and later on deduct the State’s part from the fund that Centre makes available to the concerned State.

Most migrant workers are detained at States in economically developed States such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi etc.  Till the time individual migrants undertake travel, these States may be trusted with making available the necessary food items to these workers through the concerned ration shops. For this purpose, the unique serial numbers issued to the migrant workers in course of registration through mobile phones may be made use of.  

It is quite possible that resorting to such an arrangement might result in some misuse or leakages. But that can be considered as small for attaining a much greater national purpose.

There will remain another mammoth challenge of course. That is about quarantining the migrant in their home states for specified period. It is of course a matter of duty for the States and the Centre must render help. However, this is clearly another part.

Unless the present and immediate challenge is met upfront with alacrity, the nexus of opposition and section of media will step up politicization of migrant workers. Queer things are happening these days. For example, there were reports recently of survivors of a ‘crash’ saying that the police in Rajasthan had made them (migrant workers) disembark buses and climb on truck that eventually met with accidents and resulted in the death of a few inside UP. On the other hand, an offer came from the party ruling the same very State (Rajasthan) offering thousand buses to the government of UP for ferrying migrant workers! It is clear unless hideous politicking about such a serious issue stops forthwith, the nation is bound to countenance much greater tragedies. Solution there must be and that as fast as possible!  

Mobile as a communication device has done many a wonder in many countries in resolving crisis situation. Here is an opportunity to put India’s tremendous success in the spread of mobile telephony for resolving a humongous humanitarian problem. Finally, giving widest media coverage to such a scheme as above can immediately put millions of migrant workers at ease. It will also end the diabolical scheme by some opposition parties to play inhuman politics with their lives.    

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