As migrant labourers from different parts of India trekked back hundreds of kilometres carrying their scanty belongings and dragging their hungry and thirsty children in the scorching heat of the plains of India to reach home in central or eastern parts of the country after the sudden announcement by the government of a complete lockdown of the country amid the spectre of Corona virus, questions were raised as to whether this ordeal could have been avoided through adequate arrangements of food and safe shelter for the workers at the places of their stay in the host cities and places of work. The employers of the migrant workers closed shop. The workers were also driven out of their rented shelters on the ground that they would not be able to pay the rent.
Their paltry savings also were to dwindle soon.
The fear of hunger forced the workers to opt for unimaginable journeys of hundreds of kilometres as all modes of transport had been suddenly closed down. Their choice was between the devil and the deep sea, between starvation and pandemic. India had not witnessed anything like this mass migration across the plains of the country without food or a night’s place of stay for sleep
since the days of the Partition of the subcontinent.
What lay behind these long marches? How do caste, race, gender, and other fault lines operate in governmental strategies to cope with a virus epidemic? If the fight against an epidemic has been compared with a war, what are the forces of power at play in this war
against the pandemic? What indeed explains the sudden visibility of the migrant workers in the time of a public health crisis?
This online publication by the Calcutta Research Group is based on contemporary reflections by journalists, social scientists and social activists, legal practitioners, and thinkers, which highlight the ethical and political implications of the epidemic in India – particularly for India’s migrant workers. This book is written as the crisis unfolds with no end in sight. It is a tract of the time.
1. Corona Virus and the World-Economy: The Old is Dead, the New Can’t be Born By Ravi Arvind Palat
2. Migrant Labour, Informal Economy, and Logistics Sector in a Covid-19 World By Ritajyoti Bandyopadhyay
3. The Body in Surveillance: What to Do with the Migrants in the Corona Lock Down By Badri Narayan Tiwari
4. Hunger, Humiliation, and Death: Perils of the Migrant Workers in the Time of Covid-19 By Utsa Sarmin
5. Insecurity and Fear Travel as Labour Travels in the Time of Pandemic By Manish K Jha and Ajeet Kumar Pankaj
6. The Return of Bihari Migrants after the COVID-19 Lockdown By Anamika Priyadarshini and Sonamani Chaudhury
7. The Sudden Visibility of Returnee Labour By Rajat Roy 76
8. Glimpses of Life in the Time of Corona By Madhurilata Basu and Sibaji Pratim Basu
9. Migrant Workers and the Ethics of Care during a Pandemic By Ambar Kumar Ghosh and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury
10. Social Distancing, “Touch-Me-Not” and the Migrant Worker By Ishita Dey
11. Bringing the Border Home: Indian Partition 2020 By Samata Biswas
12. Nouvelle Corona Virus and Gender Transgressions By Paula Banerjee
13. Epilogue: Counting and Accounting for Those on the Long Walk Home By Sabir Ahamed
14. A Report : How One State can Learn from Another By Swati Bhattacharjee and Abhijnan Sarkar