The decision to cancel Question Hour in Parliament has become a subject of discussion in the media. But people have not been specially concerned about this as the government not been giving the right answer to any question. In many instances, the government provided questions as the answers to questions! Even when the government answered some questions, the country’s media did not show any interest in them. Besides, when the answers to all the questions is just one name, Modi, the government must have realized that there is no need to waste time by allowing time for questions and must have done away with Question Hour.

The response to the questions on lockdown and the deaths of migrant labourers shows the prevalent atmosphere in the country. Although the heart-wrenching plight of migrant workers who walked for miles together during the lockdown to reach their destinations, their struggles, and battle for life and death caught the attention of the global media, this government does not have any information about this it seems! The government has said that it does not have any mechanism at the district level to collect information about the migrant labourers. At the same time, officials have also been claiming that mechanisms are in place at the municipality levels to collect the information of births and deaths according to the parameters developed a few years ago. The government has also clarified that it has not taken any action to rehabilitate migrant labourers who have lost their jobs or done anything for those who died during the lockdown.

There are two ways in which the government’s answer can be interpreted. First, the government does not consider migrant labourers as citizens of the country and therefore has shirked away from its responsibility of reacting to their plight. Second, it is reluctant to reveal the numbers that it has. According to a source, the government has collected information about migrant labourers. This has been revealed through an RTI application filed by ‘The Wire’. In its answers to RTI applications filed in 18 divisions of the Indian Railways, it has been confirmed that about 80 people – including two newborn babies and one 86-year old person - have died in Shramik Trains. But this number does not reflect their true struggles. These migrant labourers were forced to return to their hometowns in a situation where it was impossible for them to live in cities. But as there were no vehicles to travel, they had to walk hundreds of kms. Their long journeys on road was reported extensively on the front pages of the media. Some of them died mid-way during their journey and some even died of hunger. Even after they reached their hometowns, it was difficult for them to gain entry into their villages as villagers were not willing to accept them. They found themselves in precarious situations where they had to be quarantined under trees or on the side of roads. Had the government extended a helping hand to these migrant labourers, it should have known the numbers. The government’s statement that it has no records shows that it has not provided any succour to them. 

The answers to the question as to why lockdown has failed in the country or how the Coronavirus has reached the community level can be found in the government’s response. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced lockdown unilaterally without making any preparations as he did during demonetization. The objective of a lockdown is to stop people from coming in touch with each other and thereby making sure that the Coronavirus does not spread. But the government’s objective failed within one week. Similar to how honeybees leave their honeycombs in cities due to the smoke that emanates from fire, soon after the lockdown was announced migrant labourers started gathering in bus shelters and on roads. With shops shut, markets closed, and people hiding in their homes, migrant labourers threw the rules to the wind and appeared to have decided they would rather die of the Coronavirus instead of perishing in hunger. Some of them who were walking along railway lines died on the tracks with trains running over them. Lockdown failed as it was announced hastily without considering the problems that migrant labourers, who make up such a huge chunk of our population, could face.

The Coronavirus spread and reached the community level through migrant labourers. The sacrifices made by people during the lockdown failed due to the irresponsibility of the government. The government’s statement that it has no information or data about migrant labourers reveals that the government has not yet woken up to the reality of the problems of labourers and still believes that ‘Ambanis’ and ‘Adanis’ comprise the country.

It seems that the government considers migrant labourers as aliens. The government has also forgotten that these migrant labourers are the foundation for the development of cities. How will a building survive when it does not have a sound foundation? The migrant labourers who lost their livelihood after demonetization were completely destroyed after lockdown. Rebuilding the lives of migrant labourers should be the first priority of the government. To achieve this, the government should gather the relevant information, including  the number of people who died, and the present situation of those who are alive. It is high time the government realizes that the country cannot make progress without rebuilding the lives of migrant labourers.

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Mangaluru:Former Congress MLA Mohiuddin Bava on Wednesday claimed he received a call from an unknown person objecting to his participation in the ongoing Navaratri celebrations at a temple here.

Bava, who had represented from Mangaluru North segment, said he has lodged a police complaint about it.

The Congress leader said he visited the Gurupura Ambika Annapoorneshwari temple at Bajpe here and took part in the rituals following an invite by its priest.

Later, he got a call from a man, who identified himself as Anil from Mumbai and raised objections to his visit, saying It's not Nehru period, it's a Modi period, Bava alleged.

"A Muslim should not go to the temple, a beef eater and Muslim should not visit temple," the caller had told him, he claimed, adding the conversation was recorded by him.

Bava said he told the caller that he went to the temple on invitation and added he had not differentiated between communities in his political life.