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251 Migrant Workers Returning Home During Lockdown Dead


(‘Singapore Syndrome’ in India’s dormitories causing spurt of COVID-19 cases )

The lockdown from 24 March 2020 to 31 May 2020 has led to the death of at least 251 migrant workers .

This include 170 persons in other transports and 81 persons in Shramik trains who died while  trying to return home to escape instant joblessness, homelessness and hunger in the metropolis. 

Migrants died in road accidents, forest fire, due to exhaustion, illness, negligence in relief camps etc while the Shramik trains have turned into living hell-holes without water, food and constantly running late without fans during scorching Indian summer.

These are findings of a detailed report  ny the  Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) titled “COVID-19 Lockdown: The Impact Of Singapore Syndrome In India’s Dormitories” .


Arguing that the lockdown had failed to contain community transmission of COVID-19 infections, RRAG director Suhas Chakma told Easternlink :  “’Singapore Syndrome’ is all about faster spread of COVID-19 cases during lockdown in situations where maintaining social distancing is impossible like the cramped dormitories housing the foreign migrant workers in Singapore. 

By 5 March 2020, Singapore was hailed being as the model country tackling COVID-19. But by 27 May, it not only became the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South East Asia despite the lockdown from 7 April to 1 June but out of the total 32,417 COVID-19 cases in the country, a whopping 30,623 or 94.5% were dormitory cases.”

In India,  564 confirmed cases with 10 deaths were reported on 24 March . On 31 May, there were  182,142 confirmed cases with 5,164 deaths . 

“Places like Dharavi slum in Mumbai are all but big dormitories far worse than the dormitories of Singapore. Infections of 15% of the total foreign workers i.e. about 31,263 out of the total 200,000 foreigner workers of Singapore by 27 May are indicative of the spread of the virus in Indian dormitories,” observed Suhas Chakma.

Lockdown without addressing immediate needs of the migrants and the poor on real time basis has caused spread of the COVID-19.

 Many of these migrants returning home are carrying the disease with 2,433 returnee migrants in Bihar testing COVID positive as of 30 May and the North East States, which are like Islands, also witnessing spurt of cases from 61 cases on 1 May to 1,689 positive cases on 31 May.

On 28 May, the government of India claimed before the Supreme Court to have transported 9.1 million migrants i.e. 5 million by 3,700 Shramik trains and about 4.1 million by road transport from 1 to 27 May 2020.

“India’s lockdown has caused the largest internal displacement in the world ever recorded in history and it exposed the migrants to colossal humanitarian crisis not only because of the failure of the government but also the Supreme Court to ensure the right to life and liberty, the right to freedom of movement to return home with safety and dignity as guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1) and 21 of the Constitution and enforce Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, ” Mr Chakma told Easternlink.

COVID-19 cases are yet to peak in India and all the measures taken so far are highly inadequate, he said .

The RRAG recommended the Government of India to work out a national strategy with the full and meaningful participation of all the States and Union Territories and the opposition political parties by keeping aside electoral politics, include epidemiologists in decision making and ensure respect for human rights while tackling COVID-19 pandemic.

“Stop the politics of Covid, fight the virus and not each other,” said Chakma.

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