The Modi govt has told Parliament it does not have data of migrant workers who died during the lockdown. India Today sheds light on data documenting those who died while desperately trying to reach their homes.
While presenting the Union Budget 2020 in Parliament on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman outlined the importance of data and said that in order to meet challenges of real-time monitoring of India’s increasingly complex economy, “data must have strong credibility”. She said the significance of data today is such that the phrase “data is the new oil” has become a cliché.
In order to address this need for “credible data”, Sitharaman proposed a policy aimed at boosting decision-making based on credible data-driven analysis. “It will enable our firms to skilfully incorporate data in every step of their value chains,” the finance minister had said.
However, just seven months after outlining the significance of “credible data”, the Narendra Modi government on September 14 informed Parliament that it has not maintained any data on the number of migrant workers who died while trying to reach their homes after the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus was announced.
To know details of the migrant crisis, Lok Sabha MPs K Navaskani, Suresh Narayan Dhanorkar and Adoor Prakash asked the Modi government if it is aware that a number of migrant workers lost their lives during their return to their hometowns. Besides this, the MPs sought to know if the government had provided any compensation/economic assistance to the victims’ family.
To this, the Union Ministry for Labour and Employment in a written reply said, “No such data is maintained”, and that the answer to the question on compensation “does not arise” since there is no data.
When asked if it has done any assessment of job losses among migrant workers due to the Covid-19 crisis, the government again replied, “No such data is maintained”.
THE ONES WHO DIED: A LIST
While the government says it has not maintained any data of those who died on their way home, IndiaToday.in had prepared a database to document such deaths by tracking media reports during the migrant crisis.
As on May 28, we had documented details of 238 migrant workers who died while trying to reach their homes. Among these, 173 were those whose identity information could be collected. In our database, we recorded information such as name, sex, age, place of death, source location, occupation, destination, mode of travel, reason for death, and distance covered.
Analysis of this data shows that the reasons for migrant workers’ deaths during their homeward journeys include: getting burnt to death in forest fires, being hit or crushed by truck/bus/trains, exhaustion, heart attack, blood in vomiting, chest pain, asphyxiation after falling in a deep pit, being trapped in snow, stomach pain, breathlessness, hunger, exhaustion, dehydration, fatigue, multi-organ failure, and snake bite, among others.India Today