The imagery of workers migrating across the country, walking on foot for kilometres on highways, and staying in wretched government shelters is still vivid in our memory. India imposed one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns in March 2020 that left millions of migrant workers stranded across the country in cities and industrial areas thousands of kilometres away from home. Now that many of them are returning to cities for work, they encounter a surprising, more disappointing reality. Migrant workers have been forced to return to work to escape their awful financial condition. This issue explores these adversities.

As lockdown restrictions were slowly lifted, migrant workers gradually made their journey back to their workplaces, far from home. The returning workers have been unpaid for nearly six months and devoid of work, except for any sporadic opportunities in their home villages or towns. Most of these workers feed their families using the wages they earn every day. For families living on the edge of destitution, six months of being home-bound without work have already pushed many into taking loans to buy ration. Continuing our coverage of migrant workers and how their return to work is unfolding, this edition presents the situation of workers from the textile industry in Surat.

Since the lockdown, many construction projects were halted or indefinitely postponed exposing the daily-wage workers to acute misery and financial distress. Even now the economic recovery in this sector is sluggish at best with thousands of workers still struggling to find a source of income. Bringing the narratives and stories of dailywage workers from various parts of India, this issue looks at the shramiks of Pune, Maharashtra, an important hub of industrial activity and construction projects. Migrant workers from Eastern Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, Kolkata and Hyderabad move to Pune in search of employment.