The pandemic has led to mass destabilisation of economies and societies across the world. The exponentially rising cases of infections around the globe prompted national lockdowns and near-blanket bans on the movement of people from one place to another. This has had major ramifcations the work-life spectrum, but most notably on the lives of migrant workers, especially in India.
In the wake of India’s 25 March 2020 decision to impose a national lockdown, domestic migrants took desperate measures to reach home amid the pandemic and policies taken to contain it, at both the central and state levels. Migrants’ often long treks home were made in the most inhospitable of conditions, frequently with tragic results (Rajan et al., 2020a, b). In the end, we witnessed what some observers describe as ‘the largest movement of migrants since the partition’ (Ellis-Petersen & Chaurasia, 2020).
This chapter examines how the pandemic affected the lives and livelihoods of migrants in India. In doing so, we also critically examine the response of the governments at the central and state levels, thereby providing insights into how we can avoid such a dire situation in the future. In order to understand how these events came to pass, it is important to comprehend the size of the internal migrant population in India.