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India’s migrant workers fall through the cracks of the coronavirus crisis

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 01:38s - Published
India’s migrant workers fall through the cracks of the coronavirus crisis

India’s migrant workers fall through the cracks of the coronavirus crisis

As the government locks down the country to slow the epidemic, thousands of day laborers have left the cities for the villages where they were born, in one of the biggest mass movements of people in the country since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Libby Hogan reports.

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Hoisting his five-year-old son to his shoulders New Delhi labourer Dayaram Kushwaha is faced with the prospect of walking over 300 miles to his native village.

When India announced a nationwide curfew - that put Dayaram's family in a difficult spot: with no work and without his 6$ a day income they needed to leave New Delhi for a long journey on foot.

If they stopped to rest, police would shout out at them to keep moving in a single line.

They were one of thousands of laborers leaving cities migration on a scale that's never been seen before since India's partition in 1947.

(SOUNDBITE) (Hindi) MIGRANT WORKER AND UNCLE OF DAYARAM KUSHWAHA, JHAALAM KUSWAHA, SAYING: "We are leaving; there is no work.

What will we do here all hungry and thirsty?

The journey took four days walking on foot and hitching rides on goods trucks.

Dayaram hopes he'll get by on seasonal work when he arrives back at his village.

(SOUNDBITE) (Hindi) MIGRANT WORKER, DAYARAM KUSHWAHA, SAYING: "We'll cut wheat for the time being and try to make some arrangements…borrow money from somebody and return it after going back to Delhi." But after three days of harvesting they received payment in food, not money and desperation is kicking in again.

The family's last potatoes will last just one more week.

When they run out, they will have to survive on bread alone or forced into loans that could quickly spiral into unpayable debts.



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