08, Jun 2020 | Teesta Setalvad
It’s the calls that keep coming… from Cuffe Parade to Antop Hill, from Wadala to Worli, from Kalbadevi, Dongri and Pydhonie. First for just basic decency and dignity of living; rations, food. Then desperation to get home, with the mess ups in Shramik trains, the vulnerability to touts, arduous is a word that does not capture what Tinku, Hurdanand, Dilip and millions of others went through; four-five-day journeys in the back of trucks, taking turns sitting during the day, and piling on top of each other to sleep at night, all to reach home where an uncertain future awaits them!
Our series, Migrant Diaries, is part of collective conversations that all of us have had with these migrants. We have spoken to and shared with thousands of such really hard-working fellow citizens. Thank you wonderful CJP Team for making this series happen.
The first call would be so, so desperate, almost tentative, suspicious, unbelieving. Then when a relationship was established the calls would come again. Honesty shone through. Food was always shared. For the journey back, pain and grit. What strikes us that the entire crisis which stands unacknowledged by the high and mighty today, signifies a basic and utter breakdown of trust. No trust in the system or the state… or government that has never implemented the Migrant Workers Act, the Contract Labour Law, the Street Vendors Act and taken these vast, vast sections of Indian utterly painfully and pathetically for granted.
Our Migrant Diaries series brings you these wonderful Indians who use the smartphone, celebrate, mourn but stoically, navigate a difficult life trajectory simply because the Indian Constitutional Dream–article 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 41, 41A, 43 have just not been realised. A real India will only be born or seen or heard when the vast sections of us, not just the twitterati, the middle classes or the entitled, get representation, power and a voice to decide policy, to make choices, to guide the country forward.
Bets are that, these people; our Tinku Shaikh, Hurdanand Behra, Dilip Rana, Ganesh Yadav, Pradeep Mal, Lipton Shaikh, Rocky Ali, they would all opt for environmentally friendly solutions and lifestyles! Bets are they would believe in a culture of ‘share and care’ and not ‘consume and acquire’. Romantic as that may sound, it can and will happen. If the vision of the policy representation comes from a position of real understanding of denials and discrimination (remember our own Phule, Ambedkar, Kabir?) solutions will also be more real and more effective, impactful and compassionate.
Will the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown and its utterly cynical implementation, that harrowed and uprooted millions, lead to this kind of seminal change? Where our social discourse speaks of the solutions while not whittling down the problems, where our political agenda is set by this huge upheaval and displacement, where subsequent policies and laws are made and (those unjust) are unmade in response to what these 56 crore, or 34 crore Indians actually need and want.
Here’s to Migrant Diaries, Grassroot Diaries, Voices, Representation, Change.
Towards the battle for social, economic and political justice as outlined in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. In the Courts and Beyond.