Going by the Indian government’s 2011 census report, the population of internal migrants stood at 45 crores or 450 million at that time. It means a staggering 37% of the country’s population comprised internal migrants – which came to well more than one-third of the total population, as per government data. That was as per the 2011 census, which means the numbers would certainly be much higher now.
According to the report titled ‘Covid-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens’, the magnitude of internal migration in India is nearly two-and-a-half times that of international migration.
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The World Bank report says, “The lockdown in India has impacted the livelihoods of a large proportion of the country’s nearly 40 million internal migrants. Around 50,000 to 60,000 moved from urban centres to rural areas of origin in the span of a few days.”
The report adds, “Lockdowns, loss of employment, and #socialdistancing prompted a chaotic and painful process of mass return for internal migrants in India and many countries in Latin America. Thus, the Covid‐19 containment measures might have contributed to spreading the epidemic. Governments need to address the challenges facing internal migrants by including them in health services and cash transfer and other social programmes, and protecting them from discrimination.”
The World Bank report further says, “The Covid‐19 outbreak has placed many internal migrant workers in dire conditions, many losing their (mostly informal) jobs and unable to return home due to disruption to public transport services and movement restrictions. This is the reality for most migrant workers, especially those working in the informal sector and living in overcrowded slums.
“Lockdowns, travel bans, and social distancing measures in response to the crisis have disproportionately affected internal migrant workers, who found themselves stranded, unable to return either to their places of work or their communities of origin.
“Without adequate access to housing, basic water, and sanitation, health facilities, or social safety nets to help them survive such restrictions, these migrants have become even more vulnerable to contagion risks.
“If discrimination and xenophobic attitudes affected migrants before, the current crisis has exacerbated such social tensions. The crisis has created a chaotic and painful process of mass return for internal migrants in India and many countries in Latin America.
“As a result, the Covid‐19 containment measures might even have contributed to spreading the epidemic. The loss of jobs and livelihood has also ruptured an important lifeline to rural households in many countries.”
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