Nagaland flags racial abuse of workers during lockdown

Govt. report documents trauma of State’s residents stranded across country

A report from the Nagaland government has noted how the stranded residents from the State were subjected to “racism and harassment” in wake of the March 24 nationwide lockdown.

A report by a working group on inter-State movement of stranded persons, authored by IAS officer Dinesh Kumar, was presented to the Nagaland government earlier this month. The report chronicles the return of migrants during the months of May, June and July following relaxations by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that allowed some Shramik special trains and limited number of buses to operate.

Faced discrimination

The panel report highlighted that the Nagaland context was slightly different given that the demographic of stranded persons was different.

It said, “Nagaland persons who are part of the hospitality sector suddenly saw themselves out of jobs due to continuing lockdown and were running out of their limited means of sustaining themselves outside of Nagaland. There were instances of racial discrimination and removal of some Nagaland persons from their rented homes by the owners in other States, who also found themselves stranded suddenly.”

The report said that as many as 18,255 stranded persons registered on the “I am Stranded” portal, that was created by the State government to ensure that all affected persons were registered and brought back in a systematic manner. A one time assistance of ₹10,000 was also offered to residents who wished to stay back and eventually 13,549 residents returned.

On March 23, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory to all States to ensure sensitisation of law enforcement agencies to take action against harassment of people of northeast amid several incidents of racial attacks linking them to the COVID-19 outbreak in India. Several incidents were reported when people from the northeast were blamed for the pandemic that is said to have originated from Wuhan in China.

Suddenly homeless

“Nagaland students, who were studying in various parts of India, suddenly had no means to return home; adding to their woes was the anxiety of their parents / loved ones back here in Nagaland — in some of the remotest villages / areas in the country. Additionally, a migrant population of persons of outside States also was present in Nagaland which became suddenly stranded owing to closure of economic / construction activities within the State,” the report said.

It added, “In many occasions, the teams found themselves dealing with highly distressed persons with immediate grievances including being thrown out of their homes, losing their jobs, depression, racial / sexual abuse. The teams handled to the greatest extent possible with empathy and ensuring the best was done to alleviate the problems / distress as faced by the stranded persons. There were several instances of persons crying due to distress / helplessness, the calls / messages from whom were dealt empathetically despite the team themselves working long hours.”

The working group was created on May 9.

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