15:37 GMT16 May 2021
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    Last year, tens of thousands of migrant workers faced hardship while returning to their home villages or towns after a national lockdown closed their places of work in big cities. The lockdown was enforced to stem the spread of COVID-19 on 24 March 2020.

    The bodies of dead migrant workers - those who have travelled from other states in order to find work - are being sold to certain private medical colleges for between INR 200,000 and INR 300,000 ($2,670 to $4,000) rather than being sent back to their home village, a study by India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) into the social security and health rights of migrant workers has found. 

    The study also found that this "politically invisible section" (how migrant workers are referred to), of society doesn’t get access to basic facilities. They are looked upon as outsiders or second-class citizens in their host state (the city/state to which they have travelled to find employment).

    The study is based on interviews with more than 4,000 migrant workers, local workers, employers/contractors, state government officials, elected representatives, scholars, experts, NGO representatives and trade union members across several states including Delhi and  Maharashtra, the NHRC says. 

    It was found that most of the migrant workers who come to Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Haryana from their native place, work in low-income and high-risk sectors, such as construction, heavy industry, transport, services, and agriculture. 

    These migrant workers often have poor access to health, social protection, education, housing and sanitation, food, water, and other necessities.

    The study also points out that female migrant workers show a higher prevalence of nutritional deficiency and have poor access to reproductive and gynaecological healthcare compared with local labourers. 

    "Because of the intense and daily exposure to toxic air, a section of interstate migrant workers suffer from asthma, cancer and reproductive health complications," the study finds.

    The study has come out at a time when the country is witnessing reverse migration once again amid a surge in coronavirus cases and fresh lockdowns.

    Last year in March, in order to halt the spread of the virus, India's government imposed a national lockdown, bringing almost everything involving public movement or gathering to a stop. The lockdown lasted until the end of May, after which the country started returning to normality in various phases.


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