Support the Maharashtra COVID-19 Petition for Migrant Workers to Return Home Safely

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50 days of lockdown. 50 excruciating days for migrant workers, with no work, no wages (even for prior completed work), no food, no money to pay for rent … and hardly any realisation of the welfare announcements made so far. Fed up of false hopes, and with no end to the uncertainty in sight, millions of migrant workers are doing everything they can to make it to their homes (hundreds of kilometres away) by trying to walk, cycle, take any rides they are offered. Many are paying exorbitant fees for the public transport home even as they are crammed into trucks, unsure whether they will reach home or be stranded on the way, and some are regretfully paying for this journey with their life, collapsing from exhaustion on the impossibly long journey home. 

From highways to railway tracks, migrant workers are desperately combing every route to get to a place of more support, and even deaths of other workers in similar situations are not dissuading them as they have suffered unimaginably already, and see no hope in staying back. The scenes highlight what a massive humanitarian crisis we are now undergoing, and how much more remains to be done to help those who build our city and keep it running. 

In the past two weeks it is estimated that only 2.3 lakh migrant labourers have been able to go back to their home states or home districts within Maharashtra, from the total count of about 12 lakh in Mumbai alone and another 20 lakh workers in the state. 

It is undeniable that we have failed migrant workers, by responding with too little, and even too late. At best now, it is important that we stand with migrant workers and support their right to go home (if they have decided to make the journey) with all the efforts that can be made to ensure workers’ dignity and safety are upheld, and their basic needs are met. 

Hungry Wheel, IDOBRO, Project Mumbai, Rotary Club of Mumbai, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), Life Foundation, Alert Citizen Foundation, CACR, Triratna Prerana Mandal,  YMCA Mumbai, Habitats for Humanity, CASA Mumbai, Red is New Green, Geo Roti Ghar, Arghyam  and other partners with technical and Inter Agency Group support from UNICEF Mumbai have collaborated on Jeevan Rath, an initiative whereby trucks at different locations on highways across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region will aim to provide essential support (energy drinks, hand hygiene materials, sanitary napkins, nutritious food, footwear, water bottles, basic medical support, etc) to migrant workers walking, and work with the police to register them so that transport for them may be arranged. The Jeevan Rath will initially operate at the following locations: 

- Dahisar Check Naka (under flyover) 
- Bhandup - Pumping Station (under flyover)
- Andheri (Western Express Highway)
- Mumbai Central Railway Station (under flyover)
- Vashi Check Naka 
- Opp Powai Police Station 
- Ghodbunder Junction (under flyover) {two trucks}
- Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway (Vasai, Virar, Manor and Charotinaka)
- Bhiwandi - Vasai Highway (Chinchoti, Kaman Kharbav)
- Kalyan - Shilphata Road 
- Panvel - Khopoli Road

Further, in line with UNICEF Maharashtra and Development Partners’ Suggestions for Migrant Welfare- Covid19, we are highlighting that the following suggestions on procedures or protocols to strengthen inbound and outbound travel of migrants from Maharashtra to other states, intra state reverse migration  (along with screening and quarantine, isolation) and vice-versa be followed:

On Transportation

  1. Shramik trains must be increased and a fortnightly time table of all trains leaving different areas must be made public. Workers should be able to book seats on these trains via online and offline modes.  
  2. Workers must be allowed to board these trains free of cost under any circumstances.
  3. For inbound journeys by road, migrant workers’ transportation into the state should be organised by transportation department/state authorities.
  4. In case for inbound migrants there is a need for camps for quarantine after arrival, post screening and testing we need to consider the soaring temperatures and make necessary arrangements, especially for children.
  5. For outbound journeys by road, the state should take the onus of transporting migrants from point of departure in the state to their home state completely with no transfer/handover of migrants’ inter-state. Cost sharing can be mutually discussed with other states.
    - All transport buses should be geo-tagged for monitoring by incoming and outbound states.
    - For intra-state transport to point of departure/entry, state to organise travel/movement within state by Department of Transport. 
  6. Single departments within Districts should manage movement lists of batches of outbound migrants with priority accorded to families with women, with children, pregnant and lactating women, elderly, adolescents and persons with disability.
  7. Unaccompanied minors should be moved with designated escort following due process.
  8. Procedure to access transport by road or train must be made easily accessible through documents and videos.  

On Provision of Essential Services

  1. Each route should have clearly identified and multiple pit stops/rest points identified and pre-arranged for by the state (inside Maharashtra). These can be petrol bunks Highway Rest Stops, and other local set-ups.
  2. These should be adequately resourced and operated to provide: a. Potable drinking water supply, b. Sanitation and hygiene facilities, with running water, c. Nutritious cooked food, d. First aid kits, e. Facilities should be gender segregated/proportional and inclusive for children. 
  3. All migrants should be provided a basic hygiene kit (dental kit, soaps/hand wash and sanitizers, sanitary napkins for women aged 12-50 years) including mosquito repellents, bottles of water, a sheet, and should get at least one week’s supply of masks and gloves.

Towards Safety and Protection

  1. In the event of quarantine of migrant women and girls, the premises should be safe, have privacy and with sufficient welfare facilities. Provide guidance to protect women migrants who are carers from infection and immediate attention must be provided if they report symptoms. A gender-responsive and child-sensitive protocol should be designed, adopted and implemented with regards to the separation of children from mothers who are infected and in the absence of other family members.
  2. Ensure that women migrants have access to means of communication to communicate with their families and relatives, places of origin, etc. 
  3. Sensitise, train and inform the government officials at all levels who have to specifically provide services to migrant women and girls for their specific needs. The topic should cover, but not be limited to human rights, dignity, non-discrimination, prevention and response to violence and harassment. 
  4. Display Helpline numbers that can be reached by women and children: ChildLine 1098 for Children and 1091 for Women 

We request you to please read and sign the petition, so that we can together work towards upholding the dignity and rights of migrant workers at this time.