A survey found that 23 per cent migrant workers, or one out of four respondents, had to walk back to their villages after coronavirus lockdown threatened their survival in cities and towns. Despite the hardships of the COVID times, hunger and non-payment of wages in certain cases, some optimism remains as 33 per cent respondents said they wanted to return to the city they worked in once the lockdown is lifted.
In 'The Rural Report 2020' survey by the Gaon Connection found out that the rural population of the country had to face mounting debt, increasing hunger, complete loss of livelihoods, and inability to access healthcare during the coronavirus lockdown. Despite that 74 per cent respondents were satisfied with how the central government handled the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas 78 per cent respondents were happy with the steps taken by their respective state governments.
The survey found that 74 per cent of the respondents were working in the city, while the remaining were either studying or had other reasons. Moreover, 66 per cent of the migrant workers surveyed said they worked for an employer whereas 29 per cent of them said they were self-employed. Of those who worked for an employer, 9 per cent were daily wagers, 11 per cent were paid at the end of the week, and 77 per cent were paid monthly salaries.
Financial status of migrant workers was precarious to begin with and got worse with the coronavirus pandemic, the survey stated. Out of the migrant workers receiving monthly salaries, 22 per cent said they got Rs 5,000 or less, 45 per cent earned only between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, while 34 per cent earned more than Rs 10,000.
Some employers did not even pay migrant workers during lockdown despite government guidelines stating that workers should be paid in full. Almost half of the migrant workers covered in the survey, 48 per cent, said they were paid their entire salary or wages, whereas 20 per cent they were paid partially and 28 per cent said they were not paid at all. Around 72 per cent monthly earners were paid fully or partially, whereas only 52 per cent weekly or daily wagers were paid by their employers, in full or partially.
Several migrant workers had to go hungry during lockdown while they were in the city as ration or cooked food was in irregular supply. Around 17 per cent said they had to cut one or two food items from their meal many times, while 16 per cent skipped an entire meal in a day very often due to lack of money or resources. Around 13 per cent respondents said that there had been many days when they had gone hungry for the entire day.
The reason behind skipping meals or not eating for the whole day was that ration or food from the government or the local administration was very irregular, the survey stated. Only around two in every five said that they received ration or cooked food from the administration either daily or sometimes. Nearly half reported never or very rarely having received food or food grains from authorities.
On the question of whether they will return to the cities once the cities fully reopen, 33 per cent replied in affirmative, whereas 9 per cent said they wish to go to a new city or town this time. Meanwhile, 28 per cent said they had absolutely no plans to go back.
The Rural Report 2020 surveyed 25,300 migrants across 179 districts in 20 states and three union territories.