Professor Dibyesh Anand, Head of the School of Social Sciences and Lecturer on the History and Politics BA Honours course, has been interviewed on Al Jazeera about the effect of COVID-19 lockdown on India’s migrant workers.
India has recorded more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and at least 350 deaths. While several Indian state leaders have called for lockdown to be extended or only partially lifted, thousands of workers gathered at a Mumbai station on 14 April to protest a longer lockdown.
Professor Anand said: “It started around three weeks ago and there are millions of workers trapped in Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai and various other places. So, we’re talking about millions rather than thousands. What we are finding is that the government keep blaming the workers for setting buildings on fire as if workers are irrational people who have nothing else to do. The reality of this situation for the workers is really dire. They have hardly any food and the government are sharing propaganda, so the middle classes say that they’re taking care of the migrant workers but there’s no evidence that government have done anything for that.”
He added: “The problem with India’s lockdown is everyone waits for Prime Minister Modhi’s speeches. So he becomes like a dictatorial figure who will announce something big and when it is announced he uses a tone that is not a reassuring tone but one where he says ‘you have to bear pain’ and we all know the big corporate houses are not bearing the same kind of pain the way migrant workers are.”