In this country of more than 1.3 billion people it is estimated that there are about 100 million migrant workers, accounting for nearly one fifth of the labor force and contributing about 10% of gross domestic product (GDP).
Many people work at low salaries in a range of industries such as textiles, construction, mining and small businesses.
When the government unexpectedly imposed a nationwide blockade, they immediately lost their jobs and couldn’t pay rent.
With no public transport after the suspension of the federal train and bus service, migrant workers began walking home on long journeys under the scorching heat.
According to the non-profit Save Life Foundation, about 200 people have died from exhaustion or an accident.
Finally, since May, the Indian government has organized special trains to bring millions of people stuck in the cities to their homeland.
Experts say the Indian economy – which has slowed down before the pandemic – will be seriously affected by labor shortages, at least in the short term.
The Indian economy is forecast to grow at the slowest pace in 11 years and analysts are heading for a deep negative growth in the current quarter.
The government has announced a stimulus package worth 20,000 billion rupees ($ 266 billion), but observers do not expect an immediate push, at least not in the short term, while there are concerns about the flow of migrants. Backsliding can put the economy 15 years behind.
According to Mehrotra, some migrant workers are likely to return to large cities, but many will find jobs in small towns close to housing that are less affected by the disease.
It is unclear whether they will find a job in their home country, when the rural economy is also suffering from low prices and crop yields, but for Mohammed Naseem Aktar, a worker at an export company in New Delhi, you are willing to take risks.
Sharing in line to book a seat on the train, Aktar said he had been out of work for two months in the capital and faced many problems. The epidemic showed no signs of abating and now he just wants to return to his family.
As of June 7, India has recorded more than 250,000 cases of acute respiratory infections COVID-19, including 7,200 deaths.
Since June 8, the country has allowed the reopening of shopping malls, hotels, restaurants and religious venues, except for some hot spot areas that were hardest hit by the disease.