Pressure-cooked in the corona lock down, feelings made tender, absorbed the news that trickled in and simmered in its aftermath. The effect of the lock down on us, who could stay in the comfort of their homes, was different from that on the ones who couldn’t and found themselves on the roads. For many of the migrant workers of India, COVID-19 became a destroyer of hopes and dreams, and for some it also brought along the fear of starvation. The trickles of their pain froze in our isolated minds and turned into icicles that pierced through our hearts.
Drawing Details: Pen and Ink Art on 23.5″ x 16.5″ Derwent 300 gsm sheet – Artist: Shafali Anand
About the Great Indian Migration of 2020
On March 24th, 2020, India effected a nation-wide lockdown to control the spread of COVID 19 or the Novel Corona Virus. The lockdown stopped all travel (air/train/buses/autos) and required that people stay inside their houses. According to some estimates, India has about 140 Million migrant workers who travel outside their home-states and work in different industries including construction, garments, hospitality (mostly the unorganized sector – in dhabas and small restaurants,) and others. When India came to a halt on March 25th, these migrant workers faced the biggest dilemma of their lives – whether to stay or to return to their homes. Millions took to the roads and traveled hundreds if not thousands of kilometers. Some were asked to go back, some found ways to continue on their journey, others were stopped at the state-borders and given shelters. Men and women who had left their homes to earn and feed their families found themselves accepting giveaways – their self-esteem left in shreds – so when one man with dried tears in his eyes said, “I hope COVID gets me, because if it doesn’t, starvation surely will,” he spoke for the lockdown-hit Indian migrant worker.
Two days ago (on April 28th, 2020,) the Government promised to bring the migrants back to their home states. It’s not going to be an easy task. It would require the states to work together, but when it’s done, it would be remembered as an act of kindness by the affected migrant workers and also by those whose hearts bleed for them.