The recent picture in the Delhi railway station and bus terminals show thousands of migrant labourers and their children gathering to return to their hometown amidst COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. These migrant labourers regularly travel from their native places like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and other states to work and stay there as migrant labourers. But after the announcement of lockdown to resist the spread of COVID-19, they could not get facilities to reach their native villages. Thus, these migrant labourers were gathering in different place of the country like Delhi and Maharashtra. Since the last few weeks, several photographs and video clips are focused on social media showing their effort to reach their native villages. Thousands of people walked to reach their villages with children on their fathers’ shoulders and mothers sharing heavy knapsack on their head. These people are now collectively in panic for their loss of job in the period of lockdown due to COVID 19. This will have an impact and lead to the increase of child labour, school dropouts and violence against children within these communities.
The Financial Condition:
The financial condition of migrant workers is very poor. Returning jobless will lead to a lot of suffering within their family. In most cases, they do not have much land for cultivation. These leads to becoming migrant workers and they are forced to leave their home in search of work to the other states of India and even abroad. Thus, this lockdown situation has left many of them jobless and lack of any source of income to run their family. Government relief packages to support their income and financial condition may not help on a long-term basis. In past several other epidemics, droughts, floods and such other natural calamities left such migrant population to lose their job and face severe disturbance. Presently this COVID-19 situation has created severe panic amongst such population for want of support financially. Government and Government initiative must be taken to bring them out from this severe condition.
Since, schools and educational institutions are closed, children of school-going age of this migrant population are facing severe problems. They are lacking nutritional food from mid-day meals from their schools. Government has taken measures to distribute an uncooked supply of food materials as a supplement to the mid-day meals to the school-going children. However, this may not be enough to satisfy their hunger. This might lead to child trafficking and other unsocial activities, as parents are facing difficulty to manage their family and home in this pandemic situation. It might also lead to underage marriage and prostitution. Girl child trafficking and the rise of pornography may also become a part of this, due to lack of finance and proper well-being.
Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi on 24th April 2020 showed our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, some references of employers who belong to factories, workshops, stone quarries, brick kilns etc. also prosecute child labours. According to him, child labour employers cannot pay their full wages and these child labourers are not being provided with proper nutritional foods in this pandemic situation. Thousands of children from different factories located in the adjacent area of Delhi were trafficked from different states and forced them into child labour. At this pandemic period, the activists are not being able to reach these children due to the lockdown situation. He requests to the government to make proper facilities of food, safety, shelter, and medical treatment. After removing lockdown these number of child labourers may increase in a larger quantity. He advised the government to constitute an effective task force to formulate and implement a strong action against the employers and child trafficking agents. It would help present child labourers and would-be child labourers.
Socio-economical and psycho-social threats of widespread COVID19 pandemic have created an emergency situation for the Government and administration. It is the responsibility of the Government to look into the matter seriously and provide sufficient nutritional food, medical facilities, economic assurance and psychological counselling as and when needed, only then these children and their family can overcome this present situation. It would be proper to utilise and seek help from NGO’s which are specialised in dealing with such crisis situations. The after-effect of a pandemic can be devastating in the perspective of child health, malnutrition, under nutrition, abuses, sexual violence, trafficking etc. It needs specific responses and interventions from every section of the society.
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