The present crisis has highlighted the exclusionary nature of public policies, and inadequacies within the urban economy keeping migrants on the fringes of destination societies — exemplified by the wave of migrants moving back to their home states. But reverse migration will bring a new set of challenges for source states especially when the population at source is dependent on diminishing resources.
India Migration Now (IMN) is bringing different civil society groups, organisations, and NGOs together on a platform to better facilitate coordination efforts.The outcomes of these sessions will be put out on our blog in the form of situational updates.
This is part of a range of IMN initiatives to ensure that migration remains an opportunity for India both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Situation Update/Urgent Updates
- Children are not being talking about, since they are a “non-productive” population, but under nutrition is extremely high.
- Brick kiln industry operations had stopped early on, even before the lock down. However, operations began during the lock down because the habitations are very close to each other. Therefore, it was understood that the workers are better if they are working.
- A lot of construction workers are stuck on site, and have not been paid wages. Many are in need of legal assistance.
- Increase of 25% to 150% of migrants returning. Reverse migration has already taken a huge toll on local resources. In Rajasthan, there have been cases where locals are getting water from trolleys because the supply has been depleted by the influx of return migrants.
- 10 Central Trade Unions issue joint statement to the PM regarding proposed suspension of labour laws in Uttar Pradesh and suspension of labour laws in Madhya Pradesh.
Lessons for NGOs
- Domestic workers, especially Bengali domestic workers might not be willing to come forward to get themselves registered in the Aanganwadi Centre because of NRC. Bengali workers also keep moving residences quire often and already experience discrimination among the population. Women are therefore afraid they will be asked for documents, but have none to produce.
- Immediate assessment finds out that the biggest problems covering female domestic workers are ration, wages, and rent.
- Tapping to philanthropic organisations for funds for direct cash transfers to workers who need to repay their loans or have to pay rent.
- Coordination also ruled by finances
Lessons for researchers
- Interstate migration is distress migration than opportunity migration. If migrants get Rs 10,000 to 12,000, it will be enough for sustenance, and would not want to migrate, but the wage that they get is usually much lesser — between Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000.
- Policy messages should have an underlying theme that migration is a solution to the country, as is also mentioned in the Constitution.
Initiatives and Action Plans
- Cab drivers are mostly migrants from UP and Bihar, out of which half do not own the cars that they have. Some are run on EMI. A 2–4 month window in which direct cash transfers are sent to drivers who are in need of money. Vouchers do not always work since money is sometimes needed for rent.
- Even before COVID-19, there was discrimination against migrants.
- There should be opportunities at both ends, especially the source, and we should think about how best to decentralise the mechanisms at source.
- Engaging with industry in providing necessary entitlements, and to address issues of labour health and labour welfare by mainstreaming the issues while at the same time engagement should also be ensured with the industry at source.
- Broader conversation on policies pertaining to internal labour migration should be assessed, but not as a response to COVID-19. Instead it should be based as an inclusionary model of migrants. This is also important that a bulk of migrant workers are between mid-20s to mid-30s, therefore exclusionary migrant policies also exclude youth in terms of broader policy implications.
- Develop a comprehensive response with all stakeholders, to get a sense of what they can contribute towards workers welfare.
- An ethical recruitment model needs to be in place, involving all stakeholders.
Key Takeaways and Follow-Ups
- Associations like Credai and FICCI are keen on looking at long-term engagement with workers. These associations become important stakeholders, who are also willing to engage on the same.
- Differentiated nature of migrants’ work should be recognised by making distinction between sectors. All migrants cannot be clubbed under a single umbrella.
- There will be a massive need for re skilling and cross-skilling as a lot of retail sector workers will be hit by job losses. Apparel workers working only for foreign brands either need to move to domestic operations or need to be re-skilled for some other purpose/industry for their reintegration into the economy.
- Social protection system needed for migrants. Schemes do not reach the people who need these. Putting systems in place to allow migrants to access social protection schemes.
- Role of civil society is to get the government a social security scheme delivery system, backed by migrant data through robust tracking.
- The problem is not of migrants, but the fact that public policy with relation to migrants already had a bad start. Migrants are mostly in areas where the virus is chasing the population, like Mumbai, Surat, Delhi. However, public policy had already allowed for the ghettoization of migrants.
- Right to Life and human dignity go hand-in-hand. Treatment of migrants under the present circumstances has failed on both the fronts.
- Central government, and state governments which micro-manage the situation do not comply by the same in case of migrants. There have been unprecedented notifications by the Ministry of Railways, where the decision on migrants is left to the respective state governments, leaving states to look after their state citizens. Migrants were put in bureaucratic hurdles even when they were given the freedom of mobility.
- Discussions and interactions with the government, social sector, and private sector need to take the dignity of workers into account.
- The Labour Departments and the BOCW boards do not have a technology-based data collection system, and hence are not able to produce any information on workers. Digitisation for registration and worker tracking necessary.
List of Participants
- Amit Garg (GFEMS)
- Ashif Shaikh (Jan Sahas)
- Dr. Divya Ravindranath (IIHS)
- Dr. Ravi Srivastava (Former Chairperson of Institute of Development, Studies, Jaipur)
- Shabarinath Nair (ILO)
- Varun Kappal (Tata Trusts)
- Prateek Priyadarshi (Jan Sahas)
- Chitra Rawat (IMN)
- Rohini Mitra (IMN)
- Priyansha Singh (IMN)
Varun Aggarwal (IMN)