Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang
Labour India

India’s Long March - Ekla Chalo Re

Why were low wage migrant workers forced to fend for themselves?

Aviral Anand 28 Mar 2020

Covid-19Image Courtesy: pinterest.com

Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe 

tobe ekla chalo re, 

Tobe ekla chalo, ekla chalo, 

ekla chalo, ekla chalo re.

...

If no one responds to your call then go on alone.

And if there is no one to speak out, and if they turn their face and are afraid, 

then open your heart and speak only you. Speak alone, speak alone.

If every one goes back and none accompanies you in the difficult path, 

then tread the thorns with bloody feet alone. Tread alone, tread alone.

 If there is no one to light the lamp, and if every one shuts his door in the stormy dark night, 

then burn the ribs of your heart with the thunder fire and burn alone, burn alone.  

 (Jodi tor dak/Ekla Chalo Re - Rabindranath Tagore, in The Music of Hindostan, p. 94).  

 

The world has seen several “long marches,” some forced and some politically expedient or to make a statement against injustice. The Trail of Tears march of Native American tribes, from the southern US to points north was a notoriously brutal relocation of several American Indian tribes that resulted in much suffering. Similarly horrific was the march of Armenians in the Ottoman empire in what is called the Armenian Genocide March. 

 

The best known political march is probably the Chinese Long March, undertaken by the Red Army, in the 1930s. India has seen its own examples of marches, like the storied Salt March by Mohandas Gandhi but there have been hundreds of lesser known marches to press for various rights, like the farmer’s march of 2018, and many other Dilli Chalo kinds of marches. 

 

To the long list of long marches, we have now added, rather unnecessarily, a Forced Long March - that of migrants heading back to their homes, on foot, since all forms of (long distance) public transport were suddenly stopped under the Covid-19 lockdown measures. This was done even as the migrants in various migrant hubs were just about taking in the catastrophic effect of Covid-19 on lives - and on livelihoods. For mostly daily-wage earners and other precarious workers like them, businesses shutting down meant a sudden and total loss of income. Staying on in the expensive migrant-hubs suddenly seemed an impossibility, with their razor-thin savings, if any at all.

 

Now many migrants are using the one form of locomotion that has not been taken away from them, walking, to try to get back to their homes. Since no one listened to their stories and plight, they just decided to ekla chalo the road.

 

A lot of the migrants are criss-crossing India on foot, arduously trekking to their homes, hundreds of kilometers away. In the north, the historic Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) is, as always, serving as a lifeline for those who must traverse its storied route to their homes east and north. They stream out from Delhi into the neighbouring city of Ghaziabad and then on to points north to Uttarakhand or east to other parts of UP and Bihar. Still others trudge westwards from Delhi to their villages in, say, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. We have now created a “Dilli Se Chalo (Let’s head out of Delhi)” mass movement instead of the more well-known “Dilli Chalo (Let’s head to Delhi).”

 

This unfortunate result of the sudden lockdown was not entirely unpredictable. Of course, some national level decisions can be very hard to gauge for their impact.  With the cases of Covid-19 slowly inching up on a country like India with a weak public health infrastructure and inherent difficulties of social distancing, there is reason for some tough decisions so as to avoid a full-scale contagion. Countries with allegedly better healthcare systems, like those in Europe and North America have a ballooning crisis on their hands. 1.3 billion people in India is a cause for concern, just in terms of numbers. 

 

Yet, this needless emergency is also a colossal failure in the basics of administration, planning, governance - and leadership. All of which, we are told, are marked by qualities of foresight, scrupulous attention to detail, ensuring backup plans, understanding “dependencies” and “stakeholders,” and carrying everything out with clear and seamless communication. 

 

It is not necessary that in an effort to avoid one disaster, one ends up creating another. This betrays the real distance between policy-makers and the people. There are simply no excuses. The state machinery completely messed up in the manner it announced and managed the lockdown. Even the prime minister did not think it worthwhile to lay out any details of the post-lockdown logistics, especially the fate of migrant workers and the availability of essential items. Panic ensued even as the speech was winding down. And then the PM very helpfully tweeted, “Do not panic.”

 

All the political experience of the ruling party from the prime minister down, all the expertise of the bureaucrats around the PM and various ministers, all the wisdom in public domain from so-called “management experts” came to nothing; in fact, they all managed to cause immense human suffering. What a fall from grace and the high-horse of the “Gujarat model.”

 

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king's horses and all the king's men

Couldn't put Humpty together again.

 
Aviral Anand is a socially-concerned citizen, based in Delhi. He believes in solidarities with global struggles, such as the working class, indigenous and other marginalized peoples’ struggles around the world.

India’s Long March - Ekla Chalo Re

Why were low wage migrant workers forced to fend for themselves?

Covid-19Image Courtesy: pinterest.com

Jodi tor dak shune keu na ashe 

tobe ekla chalo re, 

Tobe ekla chalo, ekla chalo, 

ekla chalo, ekla chalo re.

...

If no one responds to your call then go on alone.

And if there is no one to speak out, and if they turn their face and are afraid, 

then open your heart and speak only you. Speak alone, speak alone.

If every one goes back and none accompanies you in the difficult path, 

then tread the thorns with bloody feet alone. Tread alone, tread alone.

 If there is no one to light the lamp, and if every one shuts his door in the stormy dark night, 

then burn the ribs of your heart with the thunder fire and burn alone, burn alone.  

 (Jodi tor dak/Ekla Chalo Re - Rabindranath Tagore, in The Music of Hindostan, p. 94).  

 

The world has seen several “long marches,” some forced and some politically expedient or to make a statement against injustice. The Trail of Tears march of Native American tribes, from the southern US to points north was a notoriously brutal relocation of several American Indian tribes that resulted in much suffering. Similarly horrific was the march of Armenians in the Ottoman empire in what is called the Armenian Genocide March. 

 

The best known political march is probably the Chinese Long March, undertaken by the Red Army, in the 1930s. India has seen its own examples of marches, like the storied Salt March by Mohandas Gandhi but there have been hundreds of lesser known marches to press for various rights, like the farmer’s march of 2018, and many other Dilli Chalo kinds of marches. 

 

To the long list of long marches, we have now added, rather unnecessarily, a Forced Long March - that of migrants heading back to their homes, on foot, since all forms of (long distance) public transport were suddenly stopped under the Covid-19 lockdown measures. This was done even as the migrants in various migrant hubs were just about taking in the catastrophic effect of Covid-19 on lives - and on livelihoods. For mostly daily-wage earners and other precarious workers like them, businesses shutting down meant a sudden and total loss of income. Staying on in the expensive migrant-hubs suddenly seemed an impossibility, with their razor-thin savings, if any at all.

 

Now many migrants are using the one form of locomotion that has not been taken away from them, walking, to try to get back to their homes. Since no one listened to their stories and plight, they just decided to ekla chalo the road.

 

A lot of the migrants are criss-crossing India on foot, arduously trekking to their homes, hundreds of kilometers away. In the north, the historic Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) is, as always, serving as a lifeline for those who must traverse its storied route to their homes east and north. They stream out from Delhi into the neighbouring city of Ghaziabad and then on to points north to Uttarakhand or east to other parts of UP and Bihar. Still others trudge westwards from Delhi to their villages in, say, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. We have now created a “Dilli Se Chalo (Let’s head out of Delhi)” mass movement instead of the more well-known “Dilli Chalo (Let’s head to Delhi).”

 

This unfortunate result of the sudden lockdown was not entirely unpredictable. Of course, some national level decisions can be very hard to gauge for their impact.  With the cases of Covid-19 slowly inching up on a country like India with a weak public health infrastructure and inherent difficulties of social distancing, there is reason for some tough decisions so as to avoid a full-scale contagion. Countries with allegedly better healthcare systems, like those in Europe and North America have a ballooning crisis on their hands. 1.3 billion people in India is a cause for concern, just in terms of numbers. 

 

Yet, this needless emergency is also a colossal failure in the basics of administration, planning, governance - and leadership. All of which, we are told, are marked by qualities of foresight, scrupulous attention to detail, ensuring backup plans, understanding “dependencies” and “stakeholders,” and carrying everything out with clear and seamless communication. 

 

It is not necessary that in an effort to avoid one disaster, one ends up creating another. This betrays the real distance between policy-makers and the people. There are simply no excuses. The state machinery completely messed up in the manner it announced and managed the lockdown. Even the prime minister did not think it worthwhile to lay out any details of the post-lockdown logistics, especially the fate of migrant workers and the availability of essential items. Panic ensued even as the speech was winding down. And then the PM very helpfully tweeted, “Do not panic.”

 

All the political experience of the ruling party from the prime minister down, all the expertise of the bureaucrats around the PM and various ministers, all the wisdom in public domain from so-called “management experts” came to nothing; in fact, they all managed to cause immense human suffering. What a fall from grace and the high-horse of the “Gujarat model.”

 

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king's horses and all the king's men

Couldn't put Humpty together again.

 
Aviral Anand is a socially-concerned citizen, based in Delhi. He believes in solidarities with global struggles, such as the working class, indigenous and other marginalized peoples’ struggles around the world.

Related Articles

Communalism

Malappuram is not in the Wild West, Madam Maneka Gandhi: Open Letter

This scathing open letter on face book exposes not just the ill-informed rants of the former minister and BJP Member of Parliament (MP) from Sultanpur, Maneka Gandhi but challenges her and her party to please enact a law not to use elephants (or cranes) in public gatherings, festivals and processions, which the writer says will get all Kerala’s support

Communalism

Malappuram is not in the Wild West, Madam Maneka Gandhi: Open Letter

This scathing open letter on face book exposes not just the ill-informed rants of the former minister and BJP Member of Parliament (MP) from Sultanpur, Maneka Gandhi but challenges her and her party to please enact a law not to use elephants (or cranes) in public gatherings, festivals and processions, which the writer says will get all Kerala’s support


Monday

13

Jan

Nationwide

Saturday

04

Jan

Karve Statue, Kothrud, Pune

Theme

Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020
hashimpura

Hashimpura Massacre

The Lemmings of Hashimpura
summer

Summer Culture

Our first summer culture bouquet features fiction from Syria and Iraq and poetry and art from Palestine.
khoj

Teaching Without Prejudice

Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

Campaigns

Monday

13

Jan

Nationwide

Saturday

04

Jan

Karve Statue, Kothrud, Pune

Videos

Culture

Watch: Sufism and its influence on Indian music

In this SabrangIndia exclusive video, Pandit Anindya Banerjee, classical musician Kallol Ghoshal and folk researcher Niladri Sekhar DasSharma talk about the Influence of Islam on Indian Music and how the Sufis, known for their great love for music and acceptance of many indigenous customs, allowed Syncretism to flourish in Bengal.

Culture

Watch: Sufism and its influence on Indian music

In this SabrangIndia exclusive video, Pandit Anindya Banerjee, classical musician Kallol Ghoshal and folk researcher Niladri Sekhar DasSharma talk about the Influence of Islam on Indian Music and how the Sufis, known for their great love for music and acceptance of many indigenous customs, allowed Syncretism to flourish in Bengal.

Analysis

Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020
hashimpura

Hashimpura Massacre

The Lemmings of Hashimpura
summer

Summer Culture

Our first summer culture bouquet features fiction from Syria and Iraq and poetry and art from Palestine.
khoj

Teaching Without Prejudice

Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

Archives