200 citizens write to govt for immediate assistance to migrant workers

NEW DELHI: Thousands of migrant workers in India’s big cities are facing a difficult situation, as the nationwide lockdown has sealed borders and banned movement, leaving migrants labourers stranded. These workers are largely daily wage labourers, and the lockdown has left them without work, pay or a place to stay in big cities – and also without the option to go home as all public transport, including trains and buses, has been stopped.

Workers have resorted to walking large distances over days to try and find their way home. Images and photos of the exodus are circulating on social media, with citizens demanding that governments – state and central – provide assistance to stranded workers.

Given the social media response to the situation, some governments were forced to respond – announcing bus services to bring workers home. Citizens have also come together, to collect funds and put together packages containing basic essentials, to distribute to stranded workers. MHA directed state governments to set up relief camps for migrant workers.

A statement appealing for “immediate assistance to migrant workers” was signed by over 200 academics, economists, social activists, lawyers, policy analysts, retired bureaucrats and concerned citizens. Signatories include Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy, Sanjaya Baru, Harsh Mander, Medha Patkar and others.

The statement reads:

This is an urgent appeal for assistance to migrant workers who are unable to reach their homes due to the current lockdown – free food, medical care and sanitation at the very least.

The sudden imposition of a 21-day all-India lockdown on 24 March 2020, at just 4 hours’ notice, has led to horrific consequences for many. This decision, taken without proper planning, completely overlooked the disastrous impact it would have on 90 percent of our labour force. Extremely disturbing reports of the plight of lakhs of migrant labourers in different parts of the country keep pouring in. Many of them are stranded and starving in the industrial belts where they work. In the absence of any transport, many are walking hundreds of kilometres to their villages on a hungry stomach. Others, in desperation, are packing themselves in lorries, at the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

We make this urgent plea to the Central Government to pay heed to the situation immediately. The government must use the network of anganwadis, panchayat bhavans, government schools, government colleges, railway stations, bus stations, community halls, block offices, district headquarters etc to set up feeding centres to arrange free cooked food, medical care and sanitation. Foodgrains to the tune of 585 lakh metric tonnes are available in godowns of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and Central Warehousing Corporation (even before the wheat harvest). Some of it can be used to prepare cooked meals and/or take-home rations in these centres. This assistance should be available to all unconditionally, without any paperwork. This will still leave more than enough food in the godowns to fulfil the Finance Minister’s announcements and maintain adequate buffer stocks.

We also urge the government to immediately arrange for sanitised bus and train services to enable stranded workers to reach home safely. Others trapped at their distant workplaces must be assured of a secure living space with enough food, soap, sanitary pads and medical care. This is a national emergency and lakhs of people are in danger of perishing in hunger and trauma. We therefore make this urgent appeal for an immediate response to the humanitarian crisis, to prevent it from snowballing further.


1. Aaditeshwar Seth, Gram Vaani and IIT Delhi

2. Aarti, Biologist, Hyderabad

3. Abey George, Associate Professor, Kerala Institute of Local Administration

4. Abhijit Sen, JNU

5. Abhiman Das, IIM Ahmedabad

6. Aditya Bhattacharjea, Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

7. Akash Bhattacharya, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

8. Akoijam sunita, Independent writer

9. Akshaya Tankha, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Toronto

10. Alex Thomas, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

11. Alisa Blinova, USA

12. Alok Laddha, Chennai Mathematical Institute, Chennai

13. Ambarish Rai, National Convenor, RTE Forum

14. Amit Basole, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

15. Amrita Johri, Satark Nagrik Sangathan, Delhi

16. Anand Shrivastava, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

17. Anand T. Vaidya, Reader, TIFR Hyderabad

18. Anindita Adhikari, Doctoral Student, Brown University

19. Anivar Aravind, Bangalore

20. Anjali Bhardwaj, Satark Nagrik Sangathan

21. Anjali Noronha, Concerned Citizen, Bhopal

22. Anjor Bhaskar, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

23. Ankita Aggarwal, Doctoral Student, City University of New York

24. Ankur Paliwal, Land Conflict Watch, Independent Journalist

25. Ankur Sarin, Faculty, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad

26. Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women, Delhi

27. Anuradha Dutta, Concerned Citizen, Delhi

28. Anwar Jafri, Samavesh , Bhopal

29. Apar Gupta, Internet Freedom Foundation

30. Aparna Vaidik. Associate Professor, Ashoka University, Kundli, Haryana

31. Apurva Barmezai, Doctoral Student, University of Pennsylvania

32. Ardhendu Sen, Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

33. Arif Ghauri, Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom

34. Arjun Jayadev, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

35. Arun Maira, Management Consultant and Former Member, Planning Commission

36. Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

37. Arundhati Dhuru, Social Activist, NAPM Uttar Pradesh.

38. Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan

39. Ashok Kotwal, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia

40. Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

41. Ashwini Kulkarni, Pragati Abhiyan, Nashik

42. Atanu Sen, Vikramshila, Kolkata

43. Avani Chokshi, CPI (ML), Bangalore

44. Bobby Mahapatra, Texas A&M University

45. Brinda Pancholi, Freelance Consultant, Bangalore

46. C P Chandraskhar, JNU

47. Chakradhar Buddha, LibTech India

48. Chandrika R, Software Engineer

49. Cheryl Dsouza, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms

50. Danish Khan, Concerned Citizen, Bhopal

51. Deb Mukharji, IFS (Retd.), Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Former Ambassador to Nepal

52. Debjani Sengupta, Professor, Delhi University

53. Debmalya Nandi, Social Activist, Bangalore

54. Debraj Ray, Professor, New York University

55. Deepika Joshi, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Chhattisgarh

56. Dipa Sinha, Ambedkar University, Delhi

57. Dr Sylvia Karpagam, Public health doctor and researcher, Karnataka

58. Dr Vasu H V, Jagruta Karnataka and Gauri Media

59. Dr. Rama V. Baru, Professor, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

60. Dr. Sanjaya Baru, Former Advisor to Prime Minister of India

61. Dr.Asifa Nisar, Women's wing, AIMPLB Bengaluru

62. Dr.K.V.Ramaswamy, Professor, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research

63. Farman, Concerned Citizen

64. Farzana Afridi, Associate Professor of Economics, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi

65. G. Balachandhran, Retd IAS, Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

66. G. Sankaran, ICCES (Retd.), Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal

67. Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai, NAPM Tamil Nadu.

68. Gaurav Datt, Associate Professor of Economics, Monash University

69. Gaurav Singh, Right to food Campaign, Chhattisgarh

70. Gautam Mody, General Secretary, National Trade Union Initiative

71. Geetha Menon, Stree Jagruti Samiti, Bangalore

72. Geetha Thoopal, IRAS (Retd.), Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata

73. Harsh Mander, social activist

74. Himanshu, JNU

75. Himshi Singh, Social Activist, Himachal Pradesh and NAPM.

76. Indrajit Bose, Climate Change Researcher

77. Indrani Gupta, Professor, Institute of Economic Growth

78. Indrani Gupta, Professor, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi

79. Ishita Aggarwal Choudhary, Consultant

80. Jasmeeta Dubey, Concerned Citizen

81. Jawahar Mehta, VSK, Palamu,Jharkhand

82. Jayati Ghosh, JNU

83. Jayati Sarkar, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai

84. Jean Dreze, Visiting Professor, Department of Economics, Ranchi University

85. Jitendra Rathod, Social Activist, Ahmedabad

86. Jyothi Krishnan, Social Accountability Resource Unit

87. K. Nagaraj, Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism

88. Kade Finoff, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

89. Kalpana Kannabiran, Professor & Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad

90. Karen Coelho, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai.

91. Karuna DW, Visiting faculty, Azim Premji University

92. Karuna M, Rural Development Consultant, Chennai

93. Kavitha Srinivasan, Bangalore

94. Koninika, National Federation of Indian Women

95. Kripal Singh Mandloi, Khudai Khidmatgar, MP

96. Kshiraja Krishnan, Bangalore

97. Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, Land Conflicts Watch

98. Leela Visaria, Honorary Professor, Gujarat Institute of Development Research

99. M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

100. M.R. Sharan, Doctoral Student, Harvard University

101. Madhu Bhushan, Gamana Mahila Samuha, Bangalore

102. Maheen Mirza, Independent Awards Winning Filmmaker, Bhopal

103. Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor, Department of Economics, London School of Economics

104. Manjula, General Secretary, Karnataka Sex Workers Union,

105. Manohar Elavarthi, Swaraj Abhiyan, Bengaluru

106. Mashqura Fareedi, Bangalore

107. Mausumi Das, Associate Professor, Delhi School of Economics

108. Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan and NAPM.

109. Meena Gupta, Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

110. Meena Seshu, Sangli, Maharashtra

111. Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Telangana

112. Monica Thomas, Consultant Neurologist, New Delhi

113. Nachiket Udupa, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

114. Nalini Nayak, Retired Associate Professor, PGDAV(M) College, Delhi

115. Naman Aggarwal, New Delhi

116. Naman Garg, research scholar, Columbia University

117. Nandini Nayak, Ambedkar University, Delhi

118. Narendra Gupta, Prayas, Rajasthan

119. Naresh Saxena, Retired bureaucrat and former Member, Planning Commission

120. Navdeep Mathur, IIM Ahmedabad

121. Navrekha Sharma, IFS (Retd.), Former Ambassador to Indonesia

122. Nawasha Mishra, Right to Food Campaign, New Delhi

123. Neeta Hardikar, Anna Suraksha Adhikar Abhiya, Gujarat

124. Nikhil Dey, Jan Sarokar

125. Nirmal Kumar Shukla, Concerned Citizen, Hoshangabad

126. Nitin Desai, Former Chief Economic Adviser

127. Nitin Sethi, Independent Journalist

128. Nupur Samuel , OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana

129. Odisha khadya Adhikar Abhiyan

130. Paaritosh Nath, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru

131. Padmapriya, Delhi

132. Pallavi Gupta, Independent Consultant- Public Health, New Delhi

133. Pankti Jog, RTI activist, Gujarat

134. Parth Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society

135. Paschim Bongo Khet Majoor Samity

136. Piyuli Ghosh, Concerned Citizen, Bhopal

137. Poonam Muttreja, Population Foundation of India

138. Prabhat Patnaik, JNU

139. Pranab Bardhan, University of California at Berkeley

140. Pranab Mukhopadhyay, Professor of Economics, Goa University

141. Prarthna, Ghareloo Mahila Kamgar Adhikar Sangh Bhopal, Bhopal

142. Prashant Bhushan, Lawyer and Activist

143. Pratip Chatterjee

144. Praveen Jha, JNU

145. Pritha Dev, IIM A

146. Priya Iyer, Concerned Citizen, Bangalore

147. Priya Pillai, Mahan Sangharsh Samiti & NAPM (Madhya Pradesh)

148. Pulin Nayak, Retired Professor of economics, Delhi School of Economics

149. Pushpendra, Professor and Chairperson, Centre for Development Practice and Research, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

150. Rahul De, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

151. Rajendran Narayanan, Assistant Professor, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

152. Rajesh, Sangama, Bengaluru

153. Rakshita Swamy, Lead Coordinator, Social Accountability Resource Unit

154. Ram Singh, Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

155. Ramachandra Guha, Satish Dhawan Chair Visiting Professor, Indian Institute of Science

156. Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, ‘The India Forum’

157. Ravinder Kaur, Professor, IIT Delhi

158. Reetika Khera, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Management

159. Ria Singh Sawhney, Advocate

160. Rohini Pande, Professor of Economics, Yale University

161. Rohini Somanathan, Professor, Delhi School of Economics

162. Rohit Azad, JNU

163. Rohit Thakur, Narmada Bachao Andolan and NAPM.

164. Rosey Mukherjee, Individual Volunteer, Bangalore

165. Rupayan Pal (IGIDR)

166. S. Mahendra Dev, IGIDR, Mumbai

167. S.M. Vijayanand, Retired bureauacrat, Former Chief Secretary, Kerala

168. S.Q. Maqsood, Social Activist, Hyderabad

169. Saba Khan, Ayurvedic Doctor, Rajgarh

170. Saba, Insani Biradri, Bhopal

171. Sachin Jain, Right to Food Campaign

172. Sakina Dhorajiwala, LibTech India

173. Sandeep Pandey, Social activist, Socialist party of India

174. Santosh Panda, Retired Professor, Delhi School of Economics

175. Saptarshi Guha, Mozilla,San Francisco

176. Sarika Shrivastava, Action Aid, Bhopal

177. Savvy Sowmya, Oxfam India, Delhi

178. Sayandeb Chowdhury, Assistant Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi

179. SC Behar, Retd IAS, Madhya Pradesh

180. Seema, Mahila Manch, Bhopal

181. Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

182. Shekhar Singh, Founder Member, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information

183. Shikha Nehra, Stanford University

184. Shivan,i concerned citizen, Indore

185. Shivani Taneja, Muskaan, Bhopal

186. Shreekant Gupta, Professor, Delhi School of Economics

187. Shreya Shrivastav, Lawyer

188. Siraj Dutta, Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand

189. Smita Gupta, JNU

190. Sreenivasan Subramanian, Madras Institute of Development Studies

191. Srijit Mishra, Professor of Economics, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research

192. Subrata Sarkar, IGIDR, Mumbai

193. Sudha N, Independent Researcher/Activist, Bangalore

194. Sudha Narayanan, IGIDR, Mumbai

195. Sugata Bag, Delhi School of Economics

196. Sujata Visaria, Hong University of Science and Technology

197. Sujatha Singh, Former Foreign Secretary, GoI

198. Sumukh Athreya, Software Engineer, Bangalore

199. Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd.), Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

200. Supriya Nayak, Odissi dancer

201. Surabhi Agarwal, Socialist party (india), Delhi

202. Surashree Shome, Concerned Citizen, Bangalore

203. Surender Kumar, Professor of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

204. Swathi Seshadri, Researcher, Bangalore

205. Sweta Dash, Right to Food Campaign

206. T. R. Raghunandan, ex-IAS and development consultant

207. Tasqeen Machiwala, Concerned Citizen, Bangalore

208. Tridip Ray, Professor of Economics, Indian Statistical Institute

209. Utsa Patnaik, JNU

210. V.P. Raja, Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

211. Venkat Srinivasan, Data Scientist, Bangalore

212. Vijay Kelkar, Chairman, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi

213. Vikas Rawal, JNU

214. Vivek, Software Professional, Hyderabad

215. Y J Rajendra, PUCL Karnataka

216. Yogendra Yadav, President, Swaraj India

217. Zehra Mehdi, Columbia University, New York City

First published in The Citizen.