One of the most heart-breaking aspects of the 21-day "total lockdown", which began nationwide on March 25 to control the spread of the highly infectious novel coronavirus or COVID-19, has been the plight of millions of migrant labourers. Many of these workers who left their homes to make a living were stranded with no jobs, shelter and money amid the lockdown.
The plight of migrants - walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes and some tragically dying on the way - has prompted the state administration in Karnataka to step in and lend a helping hand. The support may have been delayed, but concerted efforts are now being made.
In Bengaluru, where cooked food was being supplied initially, packets of ration has also been offered to over one lakh people.
Kumar Naik, nodal officer for migrant labourers, told NDTV, "Just before the announcement of lockdown, Bengaluru had seen a substantial number of migrant labourers go back to their hometowns. It has been an effective shutdown and we have not had any movement. Even if people tried to cross over, we have persuaded them to stay in the city until the lockdown ends. So we have taken the responsibility on the shoulders of the government. This data is available to us through the labour department, civic body, and the city police. So we have consolidated the figures and cross verified."
"And we have made dry ration available to one lakh citizens in the city of Bangalore. This dry ration kit for each individual will last for about 21 days. Long-lasting vegetables are also included. Each kit costs about Rs 750. The state government has sourced funds from the labour department," he added.
Packing happens at the Palace Grounds, distribution is carried out at the field-level.
Mr Naik further said: "A lot of construction workers have been stranded without jobs. There are an estimated 60,000 such people in Bangalore now from Orissa, Bihar, Chattisgarh, West Bengal. All of them are being given ration kits. We have spare. Wherever a call comes, we have established a helpline and are getting calls from different parts of the city."
"We have been trying to take care of medical requirements, hygiene and drinking water as well as food. Before the ration kits, we were giving cooked meals to the population here By this strategy we have been able to ensure that nobody goes hungry and migration is avoided. People are listening to authorise and that kind of tragic scene is not there in Bangalore or Karnataka."
The vulnerable workers - at least those who have been able to access this state help - do see it as much-needed assistance. Rashnala Bibi from West Bengal told NDTV, "I was a cook in an apartment. But they are not giving us work there now. So it is good for us that the state government is giving us food. We have no money and we are all in great difficultly. "
Others remain uncertain over what exactly is happening and why their lives have turned upside down. Lakshmi, another migrant, said,"I don't know what this box is about. They have given us rice, dal. I work as a coolie. "
Another labourer Shivraj said, "We are taking the ration given by the MLA. I don't know what they have given. Everything is packed up in the box. I work as a coolie. We have not had work for three weeks."
With the likelihood of the lockdown being extended, future remains uncertain for the most vulnerable sections of our society.