Enable migrant labour to return home with dignity - do not charge them train or bus fares

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The lockdown by Government of India, declared at four hours' notice, left workers in the informal sector, especially those who work in places away from their home state, adrift. The Government had more than two months to prepare for the lockdown. By the third week of January, deaths were raging in China and the Chinese researchers started talking about a deadly communicable virus in the Lancet. The disease came to India towards end of January. The Government took no heed, there was no mention in either the Budget speech or any Government statements, despite warning by the Leader of the principal Opposition party.

If there was a notice period of 15 days, the labour could have returned home on their own. But this did not happen. Day after day, we saw them trundling along roads, traveling over thousands of kilometers. Or they were put in camps with unhygienic, sub-minimal living conditions. Some of them had places to stay, in cramped rented apartments where they lived in groups. They paid rent through this period and supplemented the minimal food provided to them, if at all.

Now that they are finally allowed to return home, they are asked to pay for the train services. There is no clarity on whether they would be reimbursed. Nobody has any quarrel over students of coaching centres in Rajasthan being ferried back home free of charge. Why can't the same be done for the migrant labour? Their savings have dwindled living in a place away from their home for six weeks without work. They face an uncertain future and there is no guarantee when they will start to earn again. They are being tested for the virus, which is recommended, but should they be made to pay for it?

We are requesting the Government to facilitate safe and dignified return of the migrant labour home, free of charge, and organise free testing for them. Kindly sign this petition for the cause of the migrant labour.