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  • Child Rights Centre, CNLU

Impact of the Pandemic on the Children of Migrant Workers

By Astha Bhattacharya, a 2nd Year, B.B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at National Law University, Odisha

 

Introduction

The onset of the Covid-19 crisis exposed the crippling health infrastructure as well as the socio-economic gap prevalent in our nation. Its impact has been multi-faceted but however, the consequences suffered by the migrant workers, especially their children who are one of the most vulnerable population, has been unimaginable.


Since the first wave of the pandemic struck in March 2020, the Central and subsequently the State governments have imposed stringent lockdown and curfews resulting in over 80% of workers of the informal sector losing their jobs, and having no other means to sustain their livelihoods. This emergency resulted in a mass migrant exodus from urban localities to rural areas with many families undertaking this journey on foot along with their children. There were numerous disturbing reports of young children dying while walking hundreds of kilometres to their native villages as well as female migrant workers giving birth to children on road.


The children of the migrant workers can be categorized into three divisions. The first group compromises children who continue to reside in their homes while their parents undertake employment elsewhere. The second category consists of children who travel with their parents and lastly, it includes children who themselves migrate for employment. The children under each of these categories have suffered silent exploitation during this ongoing pandemic which has been ignored by the majority of the people of our nation. This article primarily aims to study in what ways and means were the migrant children affected during the pandemic and how their fundamental rights were infringed upon different frontiers and levels. It additionally mentions the possible solutions to the present issue.


Impact of Poverty on Migrant Children

With over 97% of the Indian population becoming poorer and urban employment reaching 14.71%, loss of job and food insecurity has become a severe issue for migrant workers and their families. Due to the reduced employment opportunities, death of one or both the parents and to supplement the family income, many migrant children have started working as unskilled labourers. These children started working in brick kilns and other hazardous places resulting in poor health and nutritional outcomes.


Moreover, the children who were left behind in their villages were dependent on the remittances provided by their parents. About 10% of the rural families receive remittances, which is a primary source of livelihood for these households. However, due to COVID-19, many migrant workers could not send back these remittances leading to adverse effects on the health and food intake of these children.