India – COVID -19 Exposes our Systemic Lapses

08 May 2020
Migrant labourers who live under a flyover in Delhi

(ANS – New Delhi) – Jamlo Makdam, a 12-year old girl, interstate migrant child labourer, died trying to walk to her home in Chhattisgarh state. Jamlo’s parents are poor and live off forest produce, according to reports. They had stayed home and sent her with a group of seasonal interstate migrants from her village to the neighbouring Telangana state to work in the chilli harvest. With the extension of the sudden national lockdown, the adults decided to walk around 150 kms in the summer heat to get back home because they had no means of surviving nor any hope of employment. Jamlo managed to walk most of the distance over 3 days but collapsed approximately 50 kms away from her village. Medical officials attribute her death to imbalance of electrolytes. She had not eaten properly because she was not feeling very well. She tested COVID-19 negative. So, what killed her?

Very simply, our system. A system that allows child labour. That offers no health or wage security to a daily labourer. A system that does not support the rights of interstate migrants. It is in these large gaps that Jamlo and her kind fall through, even to their deaths. This knowledge has driven thousands of migrants to try any means to get home to a semblance of emotional, if not financial security. The NGOs know this, so does the government for that matter.

This is why the Don Bosco network in India has been working to create various support structures during the pre-COVID-19 times and more especially, during these traumatic times for the poor migrants. Don Bosco Solidarity COVID-19 Relief in India has reached out through the Don Bosco Network and the 11 planning and development organisations with their 254 Don Bosco presences across the country, to all those in need anywhere. They have reached out to migrants, people on the streets and in slums, the elderly and children, transgenders, tribals in isolated areas. The Don Bosco family partnered with governments, corporates, local administrations, other NGOs, health and labour services, individual volunteers to reach out with helping hands. They are members of district COVID-19 Care teams coordinating relief services with the administration.

With the goal to sustain and support those in need, the Don Bosco Solidarity COVID-19 relief operation has distributed 81,969 food kits, feeding 328,059 people to date (26 April). They have manufactured and distributed over 236,515 protective face masks. They feed thousands daily with cooked meals - 82,338 so far. They distributed 260,000 litres of drinking water, sanitisers, 9,683 sanitary kits and medicines where possible. They intervene with free psychological and counselling services. They simply respond in any way they can to the need.

Sadly, their wonderful efforts are nowhere enough in a country like India. And that is why Jamlo Makdam died. She became collateral damage in world-wide chaos fomented by vested interests. But her death fuels the Don Bosco Network’s determination to reach children like her, directly and indirectly through their families so that such tragedies do not happen.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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