Migrant child
A migrant worker holds a child resting on his lap as he waits with others for transport to return to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh after police stopped them from crossing the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on foot. Image Credit: AFP

It’s written “the meek shall inherit the Earth”. I’ve always wondered at this Biblical phrase, especially the term ‘meek’. It has been revealed by the wise as those who are patient under suffering, especially long suffering.

Does that mean the millions of migrants walking thousands of kilometres without hope and much misery across India in a bid to reach home, will inherit the nation? They walk, starving, silently marching onwards, frequently collapsing in exhaustion and falling into the arms of death.

The Indian government turns a blind eye, offering platitudes in the name of funding for the poor, which never reached the 15-year-old girl cycling 1200 kilometers to get her sick father home, from Delhi to Bihar.

Or the man who walked 1500 kilometers from Mumbai to reach his home in Uttar Pradesh, only to pass away in quarantine. And it definitely did not reach the worker dumped from a truck along a Madhya Pradesh state highway because he took ill and the others travelling with him feared for their lives. The only person left holding Ramcharan’s hand to the very end was his friend Yaqoob. The young mother who set out on foot to cover 1200 kilometres from Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh with a baby on her hip because there was no other choice has not seen a penny of that largitude promised, either.

I can go on, there are hundreds and thousands of such cases, as each day we are bombarded on social media with images, videos on stories of such horrendous levels of human suffering that the blood curdles.

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People post, tweet, rant and lament but the exodus of human decency continues unabashed. Lives are lost, but the judiciary, highly reminiscent of Pontius Pilate, has washed its hands off the blood of these innocent, “…see to it yourselves” they have implied. Unfortunately what followed in the Bible is going to hold true for India, too. The blood of the migrants is going to “be on us and our children”.

They farm our lands, grow our food, clean our streets, build our mega structures, care for our children, keep our industries moving, wash our toilets, clean the sewers and what do we give them in exchange – some tweets, some aid, and lots of apathy.

They are India’s forgotten, the unseen cogs in the wheels of the world’s largest democracy. And sadly, for all their wretchedness, they do not look like they will be granted even the basic human inheritance of dignity.