The coronavirus pandemic has left the deprived communities in acute distress. Migrant workers in the country are the worst affected by the crisis. As soon as the lockdown was announced lakhs of daily wagers, cab drivers, construction workers, waiters, and others who work in small businesses wished to return to their homes in rural India. Factories and establishments were shut and construction activities came to a halt. Many of the workers who wished to return to their homes, began their long journeys home on foot after the sudden shutdown brought the nation to a standstill.
Several people were seen walking along the edges of national highways of several states carrying their luggage on their back. Several migrants even died on their way back home.
In a situation as trying like this, an NGO called Working Peoples' Charter is voicing collective concerns of informal workers. It is a network of more than 150 provincial, local organizations of informal workers.
WPC has a presence on the grassroots level in more than 13states of India, including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The Working Peoples' Charter envisions that every worker has a right to work and quality employment. It has a vast experience in negotiating with municipal, state and national governments with the higher participation of both grassroots activists and workers.
"After the lockdown was announced, we saw acute hunger devastating the unorganized sector workers. Workers were totally unprepared for the developments. They were stranded at the borders and many started panicking. Workers were not able to get food from the state food supply organizations and were trying their best to voice their concerns to the government but to very little or no effect. We started distributing food, PPE and started advocacy for social distancing. So far, We have reached out to over 80,000 migrant workers in 20 states," Sundeep Narwani, 35, media advisor, tells The Logical Indian.
"A huge credit goes to the national convener, Chandan Kumar, 36," he adds.
WPC caters to domestic workers, construction workers, textile workers, transport workers (autorickshaw), home-based workers and daily wage workers.
Through their various initiatives, the WPC aims to support these workers by focusing on providing sustenance and creating employment opportunities.
"These are testing times, and we, as an organisation, have extended help to as many people as we could. However, their relief is temporary because in such tough times, their future is very uncertain," Sundeep says.
WPC will be starting a program for corona testing for workers having symptoms of the virus.
"We will continue our food relief projects and direct cash transfers," Sundeep says.
"We saw a lot of workers suffering from mental trauma because they were hungry and helpless, and not able to go back to their native places. It is important to volunteer and contribute in such times, especially for our workers whose condition is vulnerable," he adds.