Migrants are often the most marginalised group of people in many countries. They often face discrimination and lack of access to basis services. In India, the caste system adds additional struggles to the daily life of people that are not even from abroad, but other states within the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the already difficult daily life of a ‘migrant’ and their children in India could not even be imagined.
In the state of Andhra Pradesh, there are industrial districts where many migrant workers work in mills to process bricks, cotton, and other materials. These positions are often physically demanding and require long hours.
Though these workers get adequate remuneration from the mills, they were deprived of accessing the COVID-19 vaccine from the government as most of them lack the necessary documents or had left it in their hometowns. This documentation is essential for registering their data to the Government of India’s vaccination reporting system. Adding to this, they neither had the time nor the resources to go back to their home state and get vaccinated.
For many migrant workers, the decision to stay and continue to work despite the risks of the virus was the obvious choice. They cannot afford to leave and also cannot take the vaccine. This issue became a focus of Bhaskar Rao, a social worker working for women’s empowerment. He observed that the migrant people from other states living industrial areas are not able to get free COVID vaccines. He felt that this was a violation of basic human rights.
Rao contacted Children of India Foundation volunteers, who were implementing Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ vaccination project in the districts. Through Rao’s courage and with the support of the volunteers, he convinced the local medical officer to organise vaccination camps inside the industry premises to help the migrants get the vaccines at ease.
Thanks to Rao’s planning and ideas, the migrants were encouraged to call their relatives in their hometown who can access a proof of their identifications. Using photos taken of their identification cards, the health staff in the camps were able to get the details over mobile phones and enter their information on the government system. About 3000 migrants from different states received their vaccines which not only helped them to stay safe from the virus thanks to the tremendous effort of Rao’s resourcefulness and coordination with volunteers and frontline health workers.