COVID-19 Lockdown and Migrant Workers in Kolkata, India

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COVID-19 Lockdown and Migrant Workers in Kolkata, India

In this photo essay, I have tried to document the stories of some of those who had migrated to big cities in India and got trapped due to a COVID-19 lockdown.

This photo essay tells a COVID-19 story; a story of the anxieties and hardships faced by men who had migrated with their families from remote rural regions of India to Kolkata in order to work as casual construction labourers, street vendors or other similar jobs. It tells a story, in other words, of people who keep India running. Labourers who do everything from constructing buildings to cleaning sewers. They come to cities from rural India in search of work. Every morning they wait at street corners, for contractors who might have a job for them.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit these people especially hard. With factories and other workplaces closed following the lockdown, millions of them had to deal with the loss of income, food shortages and uncertainty about their future. Many of them and their families went hungry. Thousands then began walking back home as initially there was no means of transport due to the lockdown. These long treks home were made in the most inhospitable of conditions, frequently with tragic results.

According to me, heroism does not always mean an act of bravery. Heroism is also staying strong during harsh times. In my eyes, these men are all heroes, who fought hunger and poverty alongside the virus. I had a little chat with 12 of them to know their untold stories.


The Birdcatcher




The Street Vendor




The Migrant Worker




The Worker At The Farms




The Labourer




The Fruit Seller




The Factory Worker




Hope Of A Father




The Barber




The Shopkeeper




The Idol Maker




The garage mechanic




These people—I don’t even know all of their names—are a small representation of millions of people like them. They are marginalised and vulnerable people facing extreme adversity; they are people who still didn’t give up, each and every day a struggle and a battle to be fought; they are the people who build the society. For them, fear of contracting COVID-19 was eclipsed by the battle for survival for them and their families.

I believe all those people who have left their hometown and sacrificed their safety and life to work and to take care of their family are heroes. As we know, they are typically unsung heroes. My aim with this photo story has been to put their stories in our hearts and minds.

Shubhodeep Roy

Written by Shubhodeep Roy

Shubhodeep Roy is a 21-year-old award-winning photographer based in Kolkata, India. He has been working on social responsibility projects and trying to photograph socially-important issues. His work has been exhibited globally and has been published on several occasions nationally and internationally. He is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Calcutta.

Cite as: Roy, Shubhodeep. "COVID-19 Lockdown and Migrant Workers in Kolkata, India", GC Human Rights Preparedness, 14 April 2022,


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