migrant labourers

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Prof. MP Manoj Jha today left the Rajya Sabha stunned when he proposed that the Parliament apologises to the nation for what he called failing the labourers of the country.

During the third day of Monsoon session of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha MP flogged the Narendra Modi-led government for being insensitive to the vows of migrant labourers who walked on hundreds of kilometres to reach their native places during COVID19-induced lockdown, with some dying of hunger and exhaustion mid-way.

Coming down heavily on the government over its reply about the death of migrant labourers during the nation-wide lockdown, Jha said, "It has been said that there were no data (about the death of migrant workers). If you (government) have no data, it means you don't have the courage to see that (plight of migrants)."

"I propose that we should apologise to all the labourers in this country about whom we didn't care," Prof. Jha, who represents Bihar in the upper house of Parliament said.

Addressing the plight of migrants

Manoj Jha
Manoj JhaRajya Sabha TV

He urged the government to open its coffers for the poor facing financial difficulties, suggesting that each non-tax paying family should be given at least Rs 7,000 to cope up with the financial crisis triggered by the shutdown of economic activities for the past five months.

In a written reply on Monday, Union labour ministry told the Parliament that it has not compiled any data on the number of deaths of migrant workers during the lockdown and thus, "question does not arise" of compensation to their families.

Over 100 migrant labourers lost their lives and hundreds left injured in their quest to reach home, according to a new report published in May.

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24, lakhs of migrant workers, desperate without jobs, food or shelter - with many evicted by their landlord over non-payment of rents - started for their hometowns on foot or whatever vehicle they could manage.

Heart-wrenching images of migrants travelling like herds on oil tankers, cement mixers, lorries and walking barefoot along highways had made to front pages of the nation and international newspapers amid the pandemic which has so far infected nearly 45 lakh Indians and snatched over 82,000 lives. With their income drying up overnight, lakhs of labourers walked for days, tired, hungry and ailing to reach their dear ones; many died before they could reach home.

Facing embarrassment and criticism, the government had asked states to seal borders and started special trains to transport labourers.