05/04/2020, 14.19
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Bishop of Lucknow: migrants hide in a cement lorry; lockdown, a catastrophe for women too (video)

by Nirmala Carvalho

Eighteen migrant workers tried to return to their village hiding inside a cement mixer lorry. People are "desperate" after being out of work for more than a month, without money or food. The “lockdown has reduced them to [a level of] indignity never seen before.” In villages women suffering emotional trauma are near starvation.

Lucknow (AsiaNews) – The consequences of the government lockdown on the country are “catastrophic" for migrant workers after the Indian government imposed a lockdown on 24 March that was supposed to end today, but was extended for another two weeks.

Reacting to the country-wide quarantine, Bishop Gerald Mathias of Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) said that migrant workers have been left without work, money or food. In villages, women have been left without help from their family, anxious about their fate. Their "hidden" suffering seems to concern no one.

For the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the lockdown of all commercial and transport activities, stopped the outbreak. So far 42,670 positive cases have been confirmed with 1,395 deaths.

However, millions of migrant workers have been abandoned, without a job. Homeless and without food, they have been unable to return to their villages of origin.

"The announcement of the lockdown made migrant workers jobless, homeless and in need of help for themselves and their families,” said the bishop. “Many of them tried to secretly return to their villages, on foot, for hundreds of kilometres, or by other means.”

In one case, they tried using a cement mixer lorry, but were stopped by police. A video of the incident posted on social media shows the agents opening the mixer with 18 men inside.

These 18 desperate migrant workers. who wanted to return to Lucknow, were caught on a highway in Madya Pradesh. The video shows them coming out, one by one, with their half-empty bags.

“Migrants hidden in the cement mixer are a sign of the catastrophic consequences of the lockdown, which has made our people desperate,” explained Bishop Mathias. “This case highlights the cruelty that weighs on the poor. They spent more than a month, abandoned without work or food.

“These migrants are people like us; they serve us. They are labourers, hardworking people who work for us, but this lockdown has reduced them to [a level of] indignity never seen before.”

Migrant workers are not the only ones to suffer. Working in the cities, they send money and assistance back to their families in the villages. Now the latter too live in greater destitution.

“A hidden suffering is that of women in [migrants’] villages. left behind in the villages. they too are suffering emotional and mental trauma from the uncertainty of their menfolk without work and money. They too have been left on the brink of starvation, facing physical and mental insecurity.”

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