The coronavirus crisis had laid threadbare the dark underbelly of India – The Migrant Workers.
The Government of India has no clue about them, their numbers, their origin, their occupation, their plight, nothing at all. The Government is expected to take care of the well-being of all the citizens. Here, there is a significant chunk of the population about which the Government is completely unaware of.
The Government has so many departments, so many and not even a single department has any inkling about the migrant workers. All the Government departments are formed with the mandate to serve the people and not one of them is clued into the migrant workers.
Let’s take a roll-call of some of the departments, what they are supposed to be doing and how they have failed the migrant workers.
Ministry of Home Affairs
The most powerful department in the Central Government, the de-facto number two. The department conducts a census, keeps a tab on all the citizens, maintains law and order etc.
This department has no idea about migrant workers. What is the credibility of the census figures? What is the trustworthiness of this department to maintain internal security when it has no hunch about a large mass of population floating in the country?
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
This is the department charged with health policy and keeping the citizens hale and hearty. It also manages Ayushman Bharat, providing free health coverage to approximately 50 Crore people.
This department has no idea about migrant workers. What health policy would they be formulating when they have no idea about the people who are the neediest for their services? I always had my doubts about the efficacy of Ayushman Bharat and the ministry’s abject failure to identify its beneficiaries strengthens this narrative.
Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
This department manages PDS (Public Distribution System), the food security system of the country. It distributes food items to India’s poor at subsidized rates.
This department has no idea about migrant workers. The ministry never reported that grains were undelivered because the population was down in states like Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand etc. The ministry never reported that there was more demand for its services in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala etc. Whom have they been delivering to all these years?
Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
This department is responsible for urban poverty, housing and employment programs. Each of the words is synonymous with the migrant workers are and their needs.
This department has no idea about migrant workers. All of them fall in the category of urban poor and let’s not even venture into their housing. Without knowing a thing about them, what is this department doing as its role and responsibility? How can this department even claim to exist?
Ministry of Human Resource Development
This department is responsible for the development of human resources, in short, education in the country.
This department has no idea about migrant workers. Wonder how the children of these migrant workers would be getting educated? Wonder how they would have got educated in the first place? Maybe, the ministry does not consider them human at all.
Ministry of Labour and Employment
This department is responsible to protect and safeguard the interest of workers in general and the poor, deprived and disadvantaged sections of the society.
This department has no idea about migrant workers. They fit into each objective that this department is supposed to achieve; yet, yet. Wonder what, where and which labour this ministry is referring to.
So Many Other Departments
Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and of course, Ministry of Women and Child Development. The list can go on endlessly, and even then the migrant workers will not find any place, any mention, any reference, anywhere.
Why single out the Central Government departments? Each one of them has a mirror department in each of the States and none of them, not even a single of them, fare any better or worse.
All of them are in their bubbles, oblivious of the people they are supposed to serve.
Urban Local Bodies
India has a plethora of democratic (!) institutions. Urban local bodies occupy a place of distinction for they have the virtue of being closest to the general public. However, they too have no notions about the migrant workers.
What Government, What Governance
I, of course, know that the situation is not as bad as I make it out to be. The country does have some resemblance to a functional government. Though, try asking migrant workers about it.
Since Independence, the country has been continually let down by the Government by its sheer ineptness and incompetence. We would never admit that the Government and its governance of India is a total failure. Even after the spectacular letdown of migrant workers and having their blood on its hands, the Government continues its charade of governance and we will keep paying for their salaries and pointlessness of existence.
What A Government, What A Governance. The Unmaking of India.