The Motive Behind Marathon Walking By Migrant Brothers And Sisters

According to a survey by Tamil Nadu’s labour department, there are about 10 lakh inter-state migrant workers, and a majority of these want to leave for their homes if trains are arranged for them.

Their native villages are located in Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Rajasthan.

What has helped Tamil Nadu avoid a massive exodus of migrants up to second week of May during the lockdown is a fairly good environment sustained by the government, civil society and employers even in the absence of jobs and non-payment of wages.

If transport is arranged, 70 to 75 percent of migrant labourers in the state will return to their states even as Tamil Nadu had taken some effort to comfort them, according to a survey.

Government of India promptly arranged trains earmarked for transportation of workers from other states (Shramik Trains) fulfilling all requirements of lockdown health procedures. Before the second half of May, over 14 lakh migrant workers have availed this facility and have reached their destinations.

Meanwhile, an unascertained number of migrants took to walking to their home states. Many have covered over 1,000 kms by foot in this mode. This emotional rush was picked up by insensitive sections of media and negative descriptions sought to paint the entire population as heartless and cruel to the migrant brothers, which is far removed from the ground reality. Society, at large, is entirely with the suffering migrants, even in the lockdown weeks and months.

Take the instance of Saravana Kumar, a Tomato wholesale trader of Chennai. He was denied a slot in the new veg market in Thirumazhisai near Kanchipuram. Dejected, he sought to dump a few tons of tomato he had on the highway as a protest. His friends suggested that it can be given away to the few hundred needy migrant families living nearby. Without hesitation he gave it away free.

Even as lockdown triggered job loss, nearly 20 lakh migrant workers were fed and cared for by RSS swayamsevaks all over the country. In Tamilnadu the figure stands at 5,00,000 plus. The inspiration to take due care of all from other states is the ingrained samskar that ‘all 130 crore Bharatwasis are children of Bharat Mata and so they are our own brothers and sisters’.

All said and done, one question remains: ‘Why should the migrant workers, may be lakhs of them, with their families in tow, resort to undergo extreme hardship by covering long distances of hundreds of kilometres by foot just in order to be at home? ‘ The last word – home – is the answer. Home is where the family lives, generation after generation. This migration, etc., is a fleeting separation from that holistic ambience. None can be dubbed as unwise if he or she wants to be back home, work or no work, food or no food! Setting their foot on their janmabhoomi, that is Jharkhand, migrant vanavasi workers back from Maharashtra knelt down and took the mitti on their forehead. The news photo tells all!

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