The 21-day lockdown announced by Narendra Modi on March 24 to try to contain the coronavirus pandemic has severely hurt India’s migrant workers. As their jobs in the cities evaporated and left with no money to buy food, many decided to head back to their home villages. But rail and road transport links shut, lakhs of migrant workers began walking back to their homes, sometimes braving journeys that were hundreds of kilometres. So far, at least 22 have died.
Along the way, going without meals and water, some have faced police brutality, the most recent instance being the police tear gassing and arresting migrant workers in Surat on Monday. In Uttar Pradesh, the police sprayed returning workers with bleach, purportedly to disinfect them.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of residents of some villages sending returning migrants back to the police.
Here’s how India’s cartoonists have depicted the crisis.
Modi’s sudden lockdown plan, announced without any arrangements made for migrant workers, has attracted severe criticism. Modi’s apology on Sunday did not help matters.
The repeat telecast of the 1987 series Ramayan and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar’s now-deleted tweet on Saturday that showed him enjoying it on television instead of attending to the migrant workers’ crisis was referenced in the cartoons as well.
Here’s a cartoon commenting on Modi’s request to Indians to clang utensils on March 22 as a token of appreciation for those providing “essential services”.
Many cartoons highlighted the class and caste divisions in India made visible by the mass migration, such as the apathy of those privileged enough to have a roof on their head and the fact that the pandemic was brought to India by affluent people who flew in from outside.