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In 2020, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi presided over one of the harshest COVID-19 lockdowns in the world. Left without jobs or economic safety nets in the very cities they had helped to build, some 200 million migrant workers were displaced during the crisis. Of those, roughly 10 million walked back to their villages – often over hundreds of miles and in perilous conditions. The Great Abandonment chronicles the difficult choice migrant labourers in Mumbai were forced to make between waiting out the pandemic, a dangerous journey home, or staying and organising for better conditions while facing reduced employment protections and new laws against striking. Weaving together disparate scenes of workers in each of these categories, the Indian directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya take a powerful look at the skewed relationship between migrant workers’ contribution to the Indian economy and their treatment within it. While capturing many dynamics specific to India, the film also probes questions of labour, injustice and exploitation in common across the globe.
Directors: Shirley Abraham, Amit Madheshiya
Website: Guardian Documentaries
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