Country Sans Assimilation


Country Sans Assimilation

Swapnil Bharali | May 30, 2020 11:47 hrs

The phenomenon of people returning to their home state has thrown up a number of stories – some heart-rending, others satisfying. There was one about 42 people reaching the Sarusajai Quarantine Centre. All of them were working as security guards, peons or waiters in Telengana and they had to plan their sudden departure for “home.” The relief on their faces on reaching Sarusajai was palpable. The bus journey from far-off Telengana had been arduous. And they were fully cognizant of the risks involved in such a treacherous journey through Covid-19 affected territories.

This is one side of a story where a bit of spending by people who were earning some basic liveable wages managed to cobble together some funds to hire a bus. National media, on the other hand, is replete with stories of even poorer people whose lives depend on daily wages and who have taken the actual brunt of the pandemic lockdown – the migrant labourers. All of them have been “returning home” ever since the lockdown, walking on the highways in hunger and dehydration under a blazing sun that has sparked off a heat wave in northern India. 

The situation is so bad that the Supreme Court of India had to intervene and issue diktats to the respective state governments so that the already pathetic and deplorable condition of these people doesn’t get any worse. The governments of each state through which these migrant labourers were passing through on their way “home” are to make provisions for them without any kind of discrimination.

So now, where does this whole migrating and “returning home” episode leave the concept of “One-India” that was a national dream? Clearly, people who migrate to work and are forced to return “home” when circumstances become adverse for them. The situation of northeasterners having no option but to return home when faced with racial discrimination in south India around just two years ago is still fresh in the mind.

The story repeating itself now speaks of an uncomfortable variety of federalism; there has been just no assimilation of people across cultures in India. For the migrant labour of all strata, their place of work has clearly not become their home. A single adversity and they have to pack up and leave – in this instance, overnight.

I guess it is a long way before “One-India” can truly be a reality and assimilation a natural process.

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