Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Manufactured Maladies: Article by Anindita Adhikari published in Journal of Labour Economics

October 27, 2020

packed crowd of Indian migrant workers

Migrant workers stranded at Anand Vihar Bus Depot after the announcement of countrywide lockdown as a response to increasing COVID-19 cases in India. Picture credit: Prem Singh, Telegraph India

CCSA graduate student and sociology PhD candidate, Anindita Adhikari co-authored an article, "Manufactured Maladies: Lives and Livelihoods of Migrant Workers During COVID-19 Lockdown in India," which was publish on October 21, 2020 in the Indian Journal of Labor Economics. The full article can be accessed via Springer link, the abstract is included below.

The 68 days of lockdown in India, as a measure to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, unlike any other in the world. In the first half of the lockdown, migrant workers were stranded with no food and money with severe restrictions on movement when a mass exodus of workers back to their hometowns and villages began. In the second half, the workers’ woes were compounded with a series of chaotic travel orders and gross mismanagement of the repatriation process. In this article, we draw on the work of Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) with more analysis and perspective. SWAN was a spontaneous relief effort that emerged soon after the lockdown was announced in March 2020. In addition to providing relief, SWAN concurrently documented the experiences of over 36,000 workers through the lockdown. We highlight the inadequacy of the government and judicial response to the migrant worker crisis. We present quantitative data elaborating the profile of workers that reached out to SWAN, the extent of hunger, loss of livelihoods and income. We also present qualitative insights based on interactions with workers and discuss multiple, non-exhaustive, dimensions of vulnerability to which migrant workers were exposed.