Veteran journalist and good friend TCA Srinivasa Raghavan shared this important piece.
My personal thoughts upon reading it.
Many parts of it appear to make sense and some don’t.
(1) The ones that make sense to me:
(a) “Last week the major unions held countrywide demonstrations, billed to be in solidarity with these circular migrants. But there was no mention of the migrants in their demands, which focused on the withdrawal of changes in labour laws, and opposed privatisation of public sector enterprises. The red flag protests got no coverage at all except on Left-liberal websites.”
If the labour unions did not recognise the issue of their fellow labourers, then the rest of the society is somewhat less guilty of omission. Of course, it proves the belief that labour unions are nothing but clubs acting in the interests of their members (more so in India?) and not for the labour class as such.
(b) Lack of data
(c) Interstate migrant act – too many onerous requirements and hence was not complied with and hence no data with the officialdom
(2) The one that appeared to me, to be an exaggeration:
“P. Raman, describes the “universal, permanent list of pariahs” in the newsrooms of the leading English dailies of the 1980s: “trade unions, Left parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party and rural issues — in that order”. He writes that if there was an all-India bandh, the chief sub on the night edition was expected to know better than to put it on Page 1.”
I don’t think that it is true. Not yet.
For example, ‘BusinessLine’ did not put the labour law amendments made by some States on its front page. However, the opposition to those amendments by labour unions and their planned ‘bandh’ appeared on the front page of the paper as the top news.
(3) A point that she could have and should have made but did not.
The fact that we had Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act and the fact that we had so many labour protection laws and yet, tens of millions of them were outside the pale of them could be precisely because there are so many laws and so little compliance and that the so-little compliance is because of so many laws.
A flailing State makes up for lack of implementation with superfluous legislation.
(4) Lastly, in a way, and I admit that this is not the ideal way for it to happen (but I honestly wonder if it would happen in any other way), an unintended consequence of the lockdown has been the awareness at the societal level of the numbers and the plight of migrant labour.
The hope is that it sustains long enough for it to bring about some meaningful, qualitative and permanent improvement in their living and working conditions.