The Noida Administration on Saturday, through an executive order, forwent the rent of the homes for migrant workers employed in various industrial units in the district. The state has witnessed a mass exodus of migrant workers from the national capital and neighbouring industrial areas after the Centre announced a lockdown for 21 days amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The order signed by the District Magistrate B N Singh read: “Gautam Buddh Nagar district houses lakhs of workers living on rent who work in different industrial units. Amid the outbreak, the workers must be granted residential security from the evictions. However, many workers are leaving their homes for their native villages after the landlords are demanding rent for them. It has given rise to problems on two fronts. One, the workers engaged in the essential workers are abandoning their jobs. Second, the exodus is likely to cause the spread of highly contagious coronavirus… Under the National Disaster Management Act 2005, it is ordered that no landlord should demand the rent for a month preceding this order.”
The order comes days after the state and central governments were criticised for ill-planned lockdown leaving workers in a limbo without providing any food security and forcing thousands to travel on foot for hundreds of kilometres. The gravity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that it took almost four days for the Uttar Pradesh government and the Centre to come out with a plan to take workers to their homes through state corporation buses.
However, the workers in Delhi are still waiting for a formal order forgoing the rent. As per the official estimates of Census 2001, Delhi approximately hosts 56,46,277 migrant workers from various states. This population constitutes 40.8% of the entire population of the state. Talking to NewsClick, Siddheshwar Shukla, secretary, Centre for Indian Trade Unions, Delhi said that the rent is among many things that the workers are staring at. He said, “Even if the government forgoes the rent, the home owners need to be convinced. We have run campaigns in areas which largely host industrial workers such as Holambi Kalan, Bawana and Wazirpur and convinced them. Secondly, the workers are now desperately looking for ration. There are two categories of workers, construction workers who literally live by earning their wages on a day to day basis. Second, the workers who get their salaries and have some ration stocked for them. Now, what we are witnessing is that ration shops in outer Delhi are now running out of stock after the supply chain has collapsed. We are witnessing similar things in the night shelters run by Delhi Urban Improvement Shelter Board of Delhi government. Many workers are returning empty stomach as the food vanishes as the number of workers is much higher than expected.”
How Kerala tackled the situation
Experts maintain that such an unprecedented situation needed some quick but effective action the way it was taken in Kerala. The state has opened 4,603 relief camps on Friday that have housed 1,44,145 migrant labourers who will be provided with food, masks and sanitisers.
Reassuring the workers, CM Pinarayi Vijayan had tweeted, “No one will starve during this lockdown...Kerala has taken extensive measures to ensure that no one will starve during lockdown. Will be implemented through Local Self Governments, ward-level committees & volunteers.” Further, the state introduced dedicated telephone numbers to provide food to people through community kitchens .
He said, Some people may find it tough to ask for food from others even if they are hungry. But if the government provides a number, anybody can call that number freely... Local authorities would be responsible for taking food to those in home quarantine and are not able to get food otherwise. The Municipality and Panchayat authorities should also have community kitchens to offer food to the aged, elderly and persons with disabilities in their locality.”
Also read: COVID-19: Updated Graphs of Cases, Recoveries and Deaths