The Ones Who are Stranded: A story of despair and hope, of the migrant labor from Baloda Bazar, Chhattisgarh

30th April 2020 | Madhuri Dhariwal

The Ones Who are Stranded: A story of despair and hope, of the migrant labor from Baloda Bazar, Chhattisgarh

The COVID-19 epidemic and the ensuing lockdown, has been particularly hard for our migrant labourers and daily wage earners. While others face difficulties as well, these groups are also out of home, and often without the requisite support. 

A month ago, in conversation with the District Collector (& DM) of Baloda Bazar in Chhattisgarh, Mr. Kartikeya Goyal, IAS, the key issue highlighted was of needing to reach out to, and provide last mile delivery to the migrant labour population from Baloda Bazar, who had called on the state helpline and were currently stuck in multiple other states. 

In the first 2 days of calling itself, we (the team at Indus Action) realized the magnitude of the issue, where there were children, women, in some cases elderly people, stuck in states they had gone to work in with their contractors. The reason for highlighting these groups is that along with the common needs of ration, and shelter, these groups tend to have specific needs, like milk/milk powder for children, sanitary products for women, and medicines for the elderly. 

The main issues reported have been: lack of ration, medicines, money for essentials like dal, oil, vegetables, and even soap, to maintain the hygiene needed particularly in these times. There is also an overwhelming desire to return home. They are afraid for their loved ones back home, and are also fearful of the uncertainty that this situation brings for them, and their livelihoods. 

If the contractors are bigger players and are capable of, they’re providing monetary support to the labour they’ve taken along. However, for the small contractor, this is becoming an issue, and thus the payment of wages gets stalled. 

However we need to find solutions, both immediate-term and long-term.

We are managing, with the good samaritans of the country and government support from Panchayats, and help from the police, to ensure that service is provided to the most vulnerable. In every state, it is a different permutation of groups that works well – in Telangana, we reached out to Sumanth, who is working on the ground to deliver rations through the GHMC Annapurna canteens, and in Jammu, Nainish’s parents worked with the Panchayat and local teams to deliver the food. I asked my mom to speak in Tamil to the police officer near Chennai airport, where about 50 people were stranded, who was so surprised to hear me say “Vanakaam Sir, vore nimsho” (Greetings, just a minute), before I handed the phone over to my mother for a more coherent conversation! 

There have been numerous instances of people recharging mobile phones, and making immediate cash transfers so that essentials could be bought. This crisis has also diminished differences from both ends of the political and ideological spectrums. We have had help from volunteers from both the Youth Congress and from RSS working tirelessly on the ground. 

The spirit of not letting another human being sleep hungry has shone through so many individuals; all of whom I cannot name here. Social media and its power of doing good have been one of the high-points for me. Twitter tags to other DMs and state administrations along with NGOs and groups on the ground, has by far been one of the best ways to reach people in different corners. 

The cases we’re not able to resolve are reported back to the district administration, where outreach efforts are made to the state governments, to resolve issues. Together with all the teams, we’ve been able to resolve over 70% of the issues received, serving an upwards of 14,000 people. 


These are pictures of ration reaching about 200 people, in the Hallmark Company’s construction site in Telangana. 


These are pictures of ration reaching people in Rajouri district and Mongol Patauli regions of Jammu.


A lot of the workers have started walking back in an attempt to reach home. The state has now created and started the implementation of a plan, to get the migrant labour back home safely. The next and extremely important steps are going to be rehabilitation and subsequent employment generation for the labour, to ensure welfare security. 

Personally, it has been a heart-rending experience to hear these stories every day of people suffering. I’m doing my bit, as I truly believe, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”

*Views expressed are personal.




Store the details provided by the state on a common excel sheet, in a fixed format.

Call the individual labourers. 

Add details with the name, mobile number, exact current address, home address, the total number of people, a brief and a detailed description of the issue, on the excel sheet.

Connect to different government helplines, organizations, individuals on the ground for help regarding the provision of ration, medicines, gas, other essentials.

Check with the family whether they’ve received the ration.

Update the resolution provided.

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