GaonConnection – India's biggest rural insights platform



  • 23%

    Migrant workers reportedly walked back home during the lockdown

    • For three-fifths respondents, the reason for villagers migrating to cities is lack of job opportunities in villages
    • 23% migrant workers returned home walking during the lockdown followed by bus (18%) and train (12%)
    • 12% beaten by the police, 40% faced food scarcity while returning home during the lockdown
    • 33% want to go back to cities for work
    • Half the migrant workers said the Modi government cares for both cities and villages

    They are everywhere, but invisible.

    Or so were till the country was put under a nationwide lockdown in March to control the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Suddenly these invisibles — millions of labour migrants– became visible as they started to undertaken long journeys, over hundreds of kilometres, to return from cities to their villages, their homes.

In a first-of-its-kind national survey, Gaon Connection interviewed rural residents, including these migrant workers, to understand the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on their lives and livelihoods in rural India. This survey, conducted across 179 districts in 23 states of the country, has thrown up some important findings.

We found a large chunk of this migrant labour-force is young. Almost 20 per cent is within the age group of 15 to 25 years. And 58.2 percent, that is more than half the migrant workers, are below 35 years.

Literacy remains a big concern as 19 per cent migrant workers, as per our survey, are non-literate, whereas 31 per cent have studied only till/below primary school.

74 percent migrant workers migrate to cities in search of work. Within them, more than 11 percent work as construction labourers.

During the lockdown, majority of the migrant workers returned from the national capital Delhi followed by Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

23 percent, or about one in every four migrant workers returning to the village, came home walking on foot.

While returning home, 12 percent were beaten by the police. Another 14.4 per cent was ill-treated by the people, and 67 per cent received no help from the people on their journey back home.

While stranded in cities due to the lockdown, these migrant workers faced difficulty in accessing daily food. Almost 17 per cent had to ‘many times’ skip on full meal a day due to lack of money or resources, and 13.4 percent ‘many times’ did not have anything to eat full day. Another 14.7 percent ‘many times’ had to stay without medicines or medical treatment during the lockdown due to lack of money or resources.

36.2 percent never received any dry ration or food grains from the government agencies when stranded in cities during the lockdown. Only 8.3 percent received daily cooked meal from the government/administration.

Majority of the migrant workers – 32.9 percent – want to go back to the cities after the lockdown ends, or the pandemic subsides.

We also asked migrant workers their perceptions towards the central and the state governments. Almost 48 percent said the Modi government cared both for the rich and the poor. More than half said the Modi government cared both for the cities and the villages.

One fourth the migrant workers interviewed said the Modi government’s attitude towards migrant workers was ‘very bad’ or ‘bad’. About 68 per cent said it was ‘very good’ or ‘good’.

23.4 percent said their respective state government’s attitude towards migrant workers was ‘very bad’ or ‘bad’. Almost 69.2 percent said it was ‘very good’ or ‘good’.