Statement on Migrant Labourers and Lockdowns

  • May 10, 2021

Over 150 academics and activists, in a statement issued on Monday, echoed the demands raised by migrant workers for transport, wages and accommodation, and have argued the central and state governments to take the well being of these workers into consideration before “making hasty and callous decisions on lockdowns”. The migrant workers, the statement said, are once again in “extremely precarious situations” and have been left to fend for themselves, though the 2nd wave of the coronavirus pandemic situation is “even more grim” this time. The signatories asked the government to to immediately increase MGNREGA spending and demanded PDS rations to be made available to all the citizens in need irrespective of their state of residence and identification documents. The full statement along with a list of signatories is given below.


It is now painfully clear that the Government of India has been woefully underprepared for the second wave of COVID-19. The resulting misgovernance [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, 9] is precipitating the announcement of partial or total lockdowns in various states to break the chain of infections. 


Like last year, informal workers have been left to fend for themselves and among them migrant workers are once again in extremely precarious situations. While there have been no formal restrictions on inter-state travel, the unavailability of train tickets has left many stranded [10]. Additionally, private bus tickets are being sold at exorbitant rates. A second lockdown-induced migration is underway, with workers in Maharashtra, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and many other cities trying to return to their hometowns, their future uncertain and the possibility of a daily wage for basic sustenance becoming more and more distant. It is clear that no lessons have been learned over this past year, and the same mistakes are being repeated by those in power. 


This situation is in many respects similar to last year, when India was at the beginning of the first wave of COVID-19 and GOI announced a short-sighted, unplanned lockdown on 25 March 2020. The sheer callousness and idiocy of the move was underscored by horror stories of unmitigated suffering of migrant labourers [11,12,13,14]. The government’s failure was threefold. Firstly, the government failed to ensure free, accessible transport in time [15] for the migrant workers back to their hometowns, which led to a mass exodus on foot in the harsh Indian summer during which many lost their lives [16]. Secondly, the government’s policies, which were meant to support them during this time, such as MGNREGA, PDS and direct cash transfer scheme PMGKY, fell woefully short of target [17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23]. Thirdly, the government’s subsequent decision to open up the country when the first wave was peaking led to a mass re-exodus [24], rendering its own viewpoint on the lockdown void. The subsequent “amendments to the labour laws” [25, 26, 27] put them at the mercy of their employers thus endangering the already socially and financially insecure migrant workforce. 


The government has, once again, failed the people. In one crucial respect, the situation this time is even more grim as the disease has well and truly spread over rural areas. The reverse migration of workers from cities will put an incomprehensible burden on the rural economy and healthcare facilities which, as reports indicate from states like Bihar, are already on the verge of collapse. In order for stations, bus stands and highways to not become clustered, the state must ensure a smooth transport facility to workers, who wish to return.


It is imperative that the government (centre and states) take into account the difficulties these lockdowns entail for migrant workers and workers in the unorganised sector. Based on the lessons learned from the nationwide lockdown in 2020, we immediately demand the following:


  1. The government must announce, at the earliest, the introduction of special trains for migrant workers across different states as well as increase the number of government buses to facilitate ease of travel for migrant workers.
  2. Every state government must ensure that wages for preceding months prior to the lockdown are paid in full and for stranded workers, wages continue to be paid as long as lockdown continues.
  3. State governments and Industries must bear the responsibility for accommodation of those workers who have been left unemployed due to lockdown and closure of factories.
  4. In every basti, awareness about the seriousness of the disease should be spread and free vaccines should be made available to all, including out-of-state migrants.
  5. MGNREGA is likely to be a lifesaver for the rural economy in the coming months and we urge the government to immediately increase MGNREGA spending and clear all the previous dues to the state governments. Without this, a large section of the rural population will face indebtedness and starvation.
  6. We firmly believe that the PDS rations  should be made available to all the citizens in need irrespective of their state of residence and irrespective of their identification documents.


We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the apathy shown by the central and state governments with regard to the cause of toiling people of this country including the millions of migrant workers, and urge them to take the aforementioned points into account before making hasty and callous decisions on lockdowns.


  1. Alok Laddha
Chennai Mathematical Institute
  1. Madhusudhan Raman
TIFR, Mumbai
  1. Subham Dutta Chowdhury
TIFR, Mumbai
  1. Suvrat Raju
International Centre for Theoretical Sciences
  1. Debaleena
PhD Student
  1. Rohit Kishan Ray
IIT Kharagpur
  1. Suman Kundu
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
  1. Aranya Bhattacharya
SRF, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata
  1. Aradhita Chattopadhyaya
Trinity college Dublin
  1. Bihan Banerjee
PhD Student, TIFR Mumbai
  1. Pranjal Nayak
University of Geneva
  1. Lavneet Janagal
Korea Institute For Advanced Study
  1. Debangshu Mukherjee
  1. Sayali A. Bhatkar
  1. Shiva Shankar
Visiting Professor, IIT Bombay
University College London
  1. Gopa Sardar
Research Scholar, IIT Bombay
  1. Pratik Sarkar
Boston University
  1. rohan poojary
Technical University Vienna, Austria
  1. Sunandita Paul
Research Scholar, TIFR
  1. anupam a h
IMSc, Chennai
  1. Adwait Gaikwad
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai
Bar Ilan University
  1. Arnab Priya Saha
Harish-Chandra Research Institute
  1. Pavan Dharanipragada
IMSc Chennai
  1. Ronak M Soni
Stanford University
  1. shivani
Postdoctoral fellow
  1. Prashant Kocherlakota
Institute for Theoretical Physics, Frankfurt
  1. Sreya Dutta Chowdhury
Researcher University of Leipzig
  1. Adwitee Roy
Chennai Mathematical Institute
  1. Pratik Roy
IIT Madras
  1. Rina Roy
  1. Dattaraj Dhuri
New York University Abu Dhabi
  1. Kevin Dsouza
Ph.D. researcher, University of British Columbia
  1. Aditi Dudeja
Rutgers University
  1. Swadheenananda Pattanayak
Retired Professor of Mathematics,formerly Director of Institute of Mathematics and Applications, Bhubaneswar
  1. Raghu Mahajan
Stanford University
  1. Shalin Jose
  1. Manibrata Sen
UC Berkeley
  1. Bobby Ezhuthachan
  1. Dileep Jatkar
HRI Allahabad
  1. Jayati Ghosh
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA
  1. Anandita De
Graduate Student
  1. Siddharth Joshi
Independent Researcher
  1. Bindhulakshmi Pattadath
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  1. Saravanan V
Jawaharlal Nehru University
  1. Rakesh Ranjan
Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  1. Arghya Chattopadhyay
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand
Albert Einstein Institute Hannover
  1. Bhawna Shivan
  1. Srestha Chatterjee
  1. Anushka Rawat
  1. Mehjabin Nargees M P
College student
  1. Arpan Kundu
  1. Umang Dattani
PhD student, IMSc, Chennai.
  1. Suchetan Das
  1. Aneesh P B
Chennai Mathematical Institute
  1. Abhishek MUKHOPADHYAY
Quant Analyst
  1. Anindya Chanda
PhD Student, Florida State University
Research Fellow, SINP, Kolkata
  1. Jayanti Nath
  1. Kaberi Goswami
Chennai Mathematical Institute
  1. Jaydeep Kumar Basak
PhD scholar, IIT Kanpur
  1. Mahua Mahata
  1. Pratiti Mandal
SRF, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology
  1. Ushasri Mukherjee
Research Scholar
  1. Abhirup
IIT Kharagpur
  1. Habib A. Mondal
JRF, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics
  1. Anurag Kaushal
  1. Soumen Mondal
  1. Vani Sharma
  1. Debolina Bandyopadhyay
  1. Akhila Mohan
  1. Avik Paul
Saha institute of Nuclear Physics, kolkata
JRF, USIC, The University of Burdwan
  1. Kinjal Banerjee
  1. Indranil Chakraborty
PhD scholar
West Bengal State University, JRF
  1. Sayan Dasgupta
IIT Kharagpur
  1. Manoj Kumar
PhD student
  1. Meenakshi Kumari
Research Scholar
  1. Ajjath A H
IMSc Chennai
  1. Arghya Dutta
  1. Aritra Bandyopadhyay
Post Doctoral Fellow
  1. Aravindhan S
Charles University, Prague
  1. Minhaj Munshi
M.Sc Student, Midnapore College
  1. Sudip Mandal
PhD student
  1. Sambo sarkar
IIT Kharagpur
  1. Soumi De
Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA
  1. Chaitanya Afle
Graduate Student, Syracuse University
  1. Bharath Sambasivam
PhD candidate, Syracuse University
  1. Soumitro Banerjee
IISER Kolkata
  1. Rudranil Basu
BITS Pilani, Goa
  1. Kaustav Chakraborty
Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad
  1. Soumavo Ghosh
IIA Bangalore
  1. Sagar Kumar Maity
M.Sc. student, S N Bose National Center for Basic Sciences
  1. Parthajit Biswas
IIT Kanpur
  1. Subhra Ranjan Karmakar
BTech student, NIT Durgapur
  1. Rupsa Bhattacharjee
PhD scholar at IIT Delhi
  1. Subhra Kumar Mukhopadhyay
Retired Professor
  1. Manu
Chennai Mathematical Institute
  1. Tathagata Ghosh
  1. Sharvaree Vadgama
University of Amsterdam
  1. L.Devi
Research scholar
  1. Naveena Kumara A
PhD Student
  1.       Monodeep Chakraborty
  1. Preeti Sahu
  1. Atisdipankar Chakrabarti
  1. Nirmalya Kajuri
Indian Association for Cultivation of Science
  1. Bijoy Mathew
IISER Thiruvananthapuram
  1. Sucheta Majumdar
Université Libre de Bruxelles
  1. Sugato Mukhopadhyay
Indian Statistical Institute
  1. Abhiram Kaushik
University of Zagreb
  1. Apurba Das
Postdoctoral Fellow, IIT Kanpur
  1. Kazi Rafsanjani Amin
CEA, Grenoble. Postdoctoral researcher
  1. Dibyendu Sekhar Mandal
Assistant Professor, Amity University Mumbai
  1. Swagato Kumar Ray
Indian Statistical Institute
  1. Abhishek Senapati
  1. Jayanta Sarkar
ISI Kolkata
  1. Mrinal Kanti Das
Indian Statistical Institute
  1. Ujjal Das
  1. Biltu Dan
  1. Rahul Roy
Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
  1. Rajat Subhra Hazra
Associate Professor
  1. Sohini Bhattacharyya
Rice University, Texas, USA
  1. Sushreyo Misra
Research Associate, Rice University
  1. Ananya Banik
Postdoc, University of Münster
  1. Soumen Chakravarty
IT sales
  1. Syamantak Roy
  1. B Ananthanarayan
Indian Institute of Science
  1. Tara Singha
IIT Kharagpur
  1. Sarbajaya Kundu
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sherbrooke
  1. Sreoshi Banerjee
Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
  1. Siddharth Krishna
Microsoft Research, UK
  1. Sujay Ashok
IMSc faculty
  1. Arkajyoti Manna
Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai
  1. Surabhi Tiwari
The Institute of Mathematical Sciences
  1. Sumati Surya
Raman Research Institute
  1. Sourav Ballav
Postdoctoral fellow
  1. prashanth raman
Indian Institute of Science
  1. Mugdha Sarkar
Postdoc, Bielefeld University
  1. Aparna
  1. Saptarsi Ghosal
Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi
  1. Raghvendra Singh
  1. Nomaan
Raman Research Institute
  1. Sonali Sathaye
  1. Ira Sanyal
  1. RV
  1. K. G. Arun
  1. Ritisha Mishra
HR Manager
  1. Anurag Tiwari
Kent State University
  1. Abhilasha
Media Specialist
  1. Soumyabrata Roy
Rice University, USA.
  1. Chandradhish Ghosh
Researcher, IMIB-HIRI Würzburg
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