India: New COVID-19 surge puts migrant and informal workers' livelihoods at risk again
An alarming new surge in COVID-19 cases in India and subsequent lockdowns in major cities in April 2021 has forced migrant and informal workers to leave urban areas and go back to their villages, in some cases in a mass exodus, similar to what the country saw in April and May of 2020. Informal workers express that their livelihoods will be destroyed if they are forced to return home.
In cases where workers are urged to continue working despite the lockdowns, unpaid wages and inadequate safety measures put them at high risk of infections at a time when the health system is already buckling under oxygen shortages and a lack of hospital beds. In the absence of a social safety net, workers are once again having to choose between risking their lives and economic hardship.
Trade unions are demanding universal free vaccinations for all in addition to cash transfer and free rations to poor families.