The Union government does not know how many migrant workers may have died during the 68-day nationwide lockdown restrictions that were enforced from March 25 in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, the Union Labour Minister told Parliament on Monday.
Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State (MoS) with independent charge in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, gave the response on a question raised in the Lok Sabha.
The government was also asked if they know the state-wise distribution of workers who returned and if “the government provided any compensation or economic assistance to the victims’ families”.
The ministry stated that since no such data was maintained there was no question of giving compensation to the victims’ next of kin.
Another question was directed at the government’s “failure” in assessment of problems faced by migrant workers during the lockdown.
Gangwar said: “India, as a nation, has responded through the Central and state governments, local bodies, self-help groups (SHGs), Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), medical health professionals, sanitation workers as well as large number of genuine and bona-fide non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the nation’s fight against the unprecedented human crisis due to the outbreak of Covid –19 and country-wide lockdown, including in Tamil Nadu.”
On May 30, Hindustan Times quoted data from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to report around 80 deaths on board the Shramik Special trains, which were run to ferry stranded migrant workers to their native places, between May 9 and 27.
The ministry informed the Parliament that over 1.04 crore migrants returned to their respective home states during the lockdown. Uttar Pradesh (UP) topped the list with 32.4 lakh, followed by Bihar (15 lakh) and Rajasthan (13 lakh).
More than 4,611 Shramik Special trains were run to ferry migrant workers to shift about 63 lakh migrant workers to various places in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh (MP) and other states.
“The states and union territories (UTs) have been advised to take adequate steps to streamline the migration of the workers to mitigate the hardships of migrant workers returning to the destination States/UTs,” the labour ministry told Parliament.