Another Indian migrant worker who decided to walk back 308kms to his village, after losing his job due to the COVID-19 lockdown, has died on his way home. On April 29, popular Indian journalist Barkha Dutt shared the story of Ranveer Singh who died on his way from Delhi, to a village in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
After covering over 200km on foot, he was just 80km short of home, when he died of a heart attack.
Dutt who met Singh’s widow, three children, and his sister in his village in Ambah, tweeted: “In a village beyond Morena in Madhya Pradesh, I meet Mamata, the wife of Ranveer Singh. He died from a heart attack while walking the 308kms home. When you say ‘migrant workers’, it's an abstract. When you meet his widow and children, it's flesh and blood.”
Singh was among India’s millions of other migrant workers who are struggling for food, water or medicines as the lockdown continues till May 3. These workers left small villages in remote parts of the country to go to urban places and find jobs that would pay them daily wages. With the lockdown, work came to a standstill, the workers were left with no money.
Caught between the options of death by hunger or the fear of contracting the deadly virus, in the last few weeks, thousands of these workers, reportedly, began long on-foot journeys.
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According to Dutt’s video, Singh’s sister Pinky said that he had gone to Delhi due to financial obligations. The family had loans to be repaid, which his father had taken for Pinky’s education and wedding.”
In his final phone call with Pinky, Singh said that he was feeling pain in his chest, and wanted to rest. His last words were: "Please come and take me back, if you can."
Many people who watched and shared the report were “saddened” by the situation. They asked what the Indian government was doing to solve this huge crisis that the sudden lockdown had created.
YouTube user Humaira Bashir posted: “The current government is least bothered about these poor migrants.”
And, Aparna Das wrote: “Day by day we are ashamed of seeing [the condition of] migrant workers! Central government can take some constructive decisions for these migrant workers.”
Another user, Ravin, highlighted how unplanned the lockdown was: “No coordination with states, no prior food and medical supplies ensured before lockdown, no alternative for their wages done. This shows in India governments don't really think about poor while making decisions.”
The Indian government had earlier announced a $23 billion (Dh85 billion) aid package to help the poor, including migrant workers, but relief has been patchy across the country, according to reports.
Moreover, according to an April 29 Reuters report: “India has no central registry of migrant workers despite passing legislation 40 years ago to establish such a database, the labour ministry told parliament last month. The law aimed to formalise employment contracts and protect migrant labourers’ rights, but it was rarely enforced. Labour officials say the fact that workers are constantly on the move makes documenting them difficult. Appeals for help by migrant workers have provided a new tool for local officials, but campaigners fear the latest counting efforts will also fall short.”