Issues in India

According to the volume 1, the outbreak of Spanish flu in the shape of three major peaks that visited by every single declaration of the pandemic was ultimately occasioned by the mass movement of civilians across the world. If the rumours and censorship applied as a factor that delayed the immediate response of the governments and international organization, resulting in the second wave to visit, it used to be an uncontrolled migration of soldiers, refugees and civilians that decided the height of the amplitude of the second wave. To examine the reasoning behind people’s choices not to follow social distancing measures, the team has selected to explore mass migration in India.

Evaluation of the first prediction (4-1 and Further Implication in 4-1 in volume 1):

The first prediction that active migration will induce the acute increase of the reported case of COVID-19, presented in the previous volume through the historical parallelism, turned out to be valid. Firstly commenting on India’s cases, after March, COVID 19 spread derived from the regions where the rate of migration was high. Then, gradually, the contagion had spread to other regions in India (Diagram: Timeline of the pandemic spread across India). This data supports the prediction by effectively showing that the active movement of people caused the area to be more vulnerable to contagion due to the more frequent exposure to the risk of transmission. Overall, houses with a migrant who has gone in search of work equal to or greater than 25% were concentrated across the borderlines (outbound of the country). For instance, the northern part of the country including Rajasthan, Bihar (source of 12% of total blue-collar jobs migrants in India), Uttar Pradesh (source of 19% of total blue-collar jobs migrants in India), Assam (source of 15% of total blue-collar jobs migrants in India), and coastal areas such as Mumbai, Kerala, Bhubaneswar, and Odisha (source of 13% of total blue-collar jobs migrants in India) demonstrated a high concentration of houses with greater or equal to 25% of migrants (Mint, 2020), (The Economic Times, 2019). Analyzing the choropleth maps, it is prominent that the region with the highest percentage of migrants is experiencing a significant number of COVID 19 reported cases.

Estimating the cause of the spread in national scale, seasonal migrants functioning as a transmitting device of the virus is the most potent prediction. The seasonal migrants have been a dominant force to fuel the rapid growth of secondary industries in India. Within a decade (2001 to 2011), the proportion of the migrating population rose from 31.45% to 44.35% (Garg, A, K. 2019). The increase of migrants is the consequence of the needs of remittance due to the increase in debts by increasing the number of children to take care of, rural crisis including the loss of viable farmland and limited job opportunities in a blue-collar job in the local area. Still, over 65% of the population live in a rural area (Trading Economy,2020) with ⅙ of the members of the family there becoming a seasonal migrant. And, over 80% of them suffer in serious poverty (Statistics Time, 2020). Mostly, these migrants in a rural area move to the urban area in the same state, or to the urban area in the state closely located from where they live. In fact, Kerala being the domestic origin of the virus on 2nd of February, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan were the regions where the spread from the domestic origin was detected from the early stage. Here, the seasonal migrants are expected to contribute to the outcome.

Diagram: Share of formal/informal Sectors across broad sectors to GVA_India
Source: Computed from National Accounts Statistics, 2019

After seven months of monitoring, the seasonal migration has been hazardous in management of COVID 19 for three major reasons. First, the extreme amount of labourers and characteristics of the employment structure in urban areas challenge the government to track the migrants if they were exposed to infected patients. Majority of seasonal labourers are informally employed. 27.5% of the migrant workers from Dungarpur (southernmost city of Rajasthan) are employed in a manual and unskilled job, 26% are found in construction, and 10%, 9.5%, 9% of the workers are respectively found in hotels and tea shops, factories, and agriculture (S Murthy,V, R. 2019). Here, each sector that the labourers are employed corresponds to sectors titled as “construction” and “trade, repair, Accommodation and food services” on the table above, titled as “Share of formal/informal Sectors across broad sectors to GVA_India”. The percentage of informally employed workers in construction occupies about 74.5% in 2017-18 and 86.6% in Trade, Repair, Accommodation and Food Services of the same year. Percentages from both sectors overtake the percentage of employment in the formal sector. Besides, another area such as “manufacturing” also shows a high % of informal employment: 22.7%. Thus, given that over 65% of migrant workers are employed in construction, manufacturing, and unskilled jobs, high % of informal employment in the corresponding sector shows the hazardous potentials of seasonal migrants when it comes to the management of the spread of COVID 19 in India.

Furthermore, owners of factories and sweatshops of India abuse the demographic nature of India: a surplus of labourers. Demonstrating one of the characteristics of the informal workers, factories put themselves in a position to replace any unproductive workers. This action can be done easily since most of those workers are unregistered. Therefore, frequent replacement of workers under circular migration even adds hardship for the government to monitor the seasonal migrants (S Murthy, V,R. 2019).

The second reason is the health failures of the labourers that cause them to be vulnerable to the contagion. Majority of the migrants are from poor families who need money. Hence, the health conditions of those workers are poor due to malnutrition and illness that is untreated for a long time. High incidence of diseases such as Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria, as well as chronic levels of hypertension and diabetes among workers, were noticed by Aajeevika Bureau (a specialised public initiative working with seasonal labour migrants) in Ahmedabad). Lung failures tend to appear commonly, especially among the seasonal migrants, as they are more frequently exposed to extremely polluted air when toxic pollutants are emitted into the air by vehicles and factories, and as they more regularly intake fine concrete, lead, and fine iron dust. This lung failure then makes them more vulnerable to COVOID 19. According to WHO- “it is anticipated that people ill with both TB and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes”(WHO, 2020). India, where supplies are extremely limited, the combination of lung failures and COVID 19 might multiply the challenge and cost for treatment, which will be impossible for poor labourers to afford. In addition, similar symptoms will make it hard to distinguish between TB and COVID 19, causing the virus to be transferred to other people, without being noticed. (WHO, 2020)

The third reason is the conditions the seasonal migrants are exposed to. These conditions directly lead to the failure of keeping a social distance and minimizing contact between people. Mentioned previously, the proportion of seasonal migrants in the construction sector is significant. However, as characteristics of the operated action in the site, workers here have frequent physical touch and exchange in body fluids. This increases the chance of transmission. Moreover, buses are important public transport for the seasonal migrants, who do not have private ownership of motor vehicles nor a car. In consideration of the total migrants who commute to the cities, the number of buses is extremely limited. On the national scale, there are 1.2 buses per 1000 in India (Times of India, 2020), whilst in comparison, there are 8.6 in Thailand and 47.4 in South Korea (Jang S, Y. 2020). Specifically, 0.02 buses are in Bihar, 0.1 buses are in Odisha, and 0.7 buses are in Rajasthan per 1000 (Times of India, 2020). A limited number of buses per population indicates that the distance between each passenger inside the bus and in the station is very close, increasing the potential of transmission. In fact, the circulation system in the bus where a large number of passengers inhale and exhale further increases the risk of transmission.

Then, after, the sudden lockdown enforcement on 24th March 2020, more than 54.3 million people migrated from Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal to Maharashtra and Delhi for work were forced to move out of their cities and return to the rural area they came from[PMC, 2020]. Under the circumstance of a limited number of buses, and them being fully registered, young children, pregnant women, and the elderly were not exceptions to be forced to walk on foot [PMC, 2020]. Hence, India experienced the second-largest reverse mass in its history after the Partition of India in 1947. Mass migration by foot means that the chances for them to contact with the civilians of the other regions will increase; as the movement by foot requires more energy and time, migrants might visit towns for food and rest where it used to be unvisited places when migrants moved by buses.


NLCS Jeju Geography Society
NLCS Jeju Geography Society

Collaborate effort by members of NLCS Jeju Geography Society


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