Migrant workers are living in conditions conducive for transmission of coronavirus infection, which also deeply disturb their psychological health, social integrity and well-being amid the ongoing lockdown due to the pandemic.
Dr Ashish Pakhre, a senior psychiatrist from AIIMS, said the debilitating effect of pandemic on the psychosocial vulnerabilities of migrants and their families needs to be addressed adequately.
“There are chances that migrants do not get valid and correct information about the pandemic such as transmission risks, treatment and action plan being considered. Considering rampant flow of misinformation and rumours on social media, it is likely that they could be influenced badly and thus suffer more”, said Pakhre.
He also called for gender sensitive steps while developing a response.
Migrants face uncertainty on food availability and financial security — reasons for tremendous worries in this vulnerable population. Dr Pakhre said that designing public response will need urgency because infection among migrants will most likely spread quickly and they will have difficulty in accessing immediate healthcare facilities. He emphasized that the language used and communication methods should communicate the seriousness of the pandemic and its implications.
“It is crucial that multiple local languages used by migrants, their community leaders and modes of communications are utilized to ensure delivery of accurate information. During such times of rapid administrative and massive socio-environmental changes, it is essential that their human rights are not violated”, said Dr Pakhre.
On the inter-linked socio-environmental changes due to lockdown, which is likely to compromise the mental health of migrants, he said there is an enormous need to protect and strengthen the psychosocial well-being of migrants given their living conditions, vulnerabilities and limited resources.
“There is a need to have a public health response in a coordinated manner which addresses the special needs, issues and concerns of vulnerable population such as the migrant workers”, he added.
The cultural differences, loss of social status, risk of discrimination, separation from family in times of unpredictable stress, financial concerns, and employment loss due to economic crisis will be potential risk factors affecting their mental health.
“It is critically important that healthcare services should not have cultural and language barriers and should be migrant-inclusive, and easily accessible. The inclusion of migrant’s issues in designing the response to Covid pandemic is necessary at all levels of health care response,” said Dr Pakhre.
He said employers should take a supportive role at this time of the crisis, and help them to access counselling services and guide them in seeking psychological help.
Former Janata Dal leader and election strategist Prashant Kishor on Saturday slammed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for what he called preaching on the lockdown but not raising the issue of state’s migrant workers stuck in other states.
“Across the country, people from Bihar are stranded and Nitish Kumar is giving lessons on the nationwide lockdown. Local governments are at least doing something, but Nitish Kumar has not spoken to authorities in any of the states. He did not even raise the issue during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Kishor’s remarks came a day after Nitish Kumar, who is also Janata Dal-United President, maintained that the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to send buses to Rajasthan’s Kota to bring back stranded students was an “injustice” to the lockdown.
The Uttar Pradesh government has sent scores of buses from Agra and Jhansi to Kota, which is a hub for institutes preparing students for various competitive examinations.
Congress leader Jitin Prasada has written a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, urging him to bring back the migrants who are stuck in different states around the country, as was done for the students from UP who were stuck in Rajasthans Kota.
On Friday, the UP government dispatched buses from Agra to Kota to bring back stranded students from there.
Prasada, who is a member of the Congress Working Committee, said, “The migrants have lost their jobs and don’t have any source of livelihood. At this time of distress, people want to be with their family and get support from their loved ones.”
The Congress leader suggested that the UP government should open a control room and circulate its numbers so that migrants could contact these numbers and register themselves for returning home.
He also said that a quarantine centre should be established for the migrants returning home and all relief, including ration, should be provided to each of them.
Prasada said a large number of people from Uttar Pradesh live in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ambala, Ludhiana, Bengaluru, Chennai, Surat and Ahmedabad.
The government should provide buses and bring them back as “we do not know how they are living in the other states,” he said.
While Prasada said that bringing back students from Kota was a good step, he demanded that the same parameters should be applied to others stranded in different states.
Around 250 buses from Uttar Pradesh on Friday reached Kota to pick up stranded students and drop them to their native districts, officials confirmed, adding that the Rajasthan government has also kept 100 buses ready for the purpose, as and when required.
Congress MP and spokesperson Manish Tewari also came out in support of students stranded in Rajasthan’s Kota and urged Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to think compassionately to bring them back to their families in the state.
“If UP can get its students out of Kota why doesn’t Bihar? Nitish Kumarji please look at it compassionately. Kota has a very powerful MP in our Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. Suggest all of you request him to take it up with Bihar government. Sure he is doing his best,” Tewari tweeted.
Tewari was responding to a tweet of Dhanrajgir, a student from Bihar. He had mentioned the problem being faced by students in Kota.
Dhanrajgir had tweeted, “Sir, I am from Bihar and stuck here in Kota. There are no such arrangements made by our government of Bihar. We are very stressful and has no one to support us here in Kota. Please do something.”
Tewari’s remarks came day after the UP government sent several buses to bring back the stranded students.
Meanwhile, Kumar described the UP government’s move as “injustice to lockdown”.
Kota is a hub of students preparing for medical and engineering admission tests and attracts hundreds of students from several states.
Earlier in the day, Tewari also batted for the migrant labourers and wondered why the government was not doing the same in their case.
“It is good to see students from Kota heading back home after they rightly raised their voice on social media. However, it beats me why can’t we run trains and buses for migrants, why are they still walking home? For they are poor and don’t have the capacity to make hashtags trend,” the Congress MP from Punjab said in another tweet.
Since the announcement of nationwide lockdown to combat Covid-19 infection, hundreds of migrant labourers have walked to their homes from different cities.
On March 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the 21-day nationwide lockdown, and on April 14 extended it by 19 days till May 3. (IANS)