As the number of positive COVID-19 cases in India increases, the nationwide lockdown has pushed India’s millions of migrant workers, the bulk of whom live in and around urban centres, into a state of extreme vulnerability and peril. Thousands crowded bus and railway stations and many took the heartbreaking decision to walk the long way home.
ARTIST CREDIT: Anarya
This is a crisis whose human costs are unfolding in real time. Thousands remain stranded across the country and in need of aid. The following are some resources that explain the crisis in its current form.
WATCH: The Plight of Migrants
CO-ORDINATION OF RELIEF EFFORTS
To better co-ordinate and provide relief efforts to migrant groups stranded and in need of aid in different parts of the country, we have put together a Whatsapp group — Migration Matters — which includes representatives from NGOs, grassroots organisations, workers collectives, migrant stakeholders, and media personnel. The aim of this group is to come to the assistance of migrants everywhere. To know more about this group, or become a part of it, please follow the link.
IMN has put together a whatsapp group where we are compiling relevant info for people in different cities, particul… https://t.co/hWXju2HSMg
Our research and policy team has been working on a series of articles about the current crisis and its potential impact on migrants of all kinds.
On 28 March, team members Varun Aggarwal and Priyansha Singh, along with Indiaspend writer, Prachi Salve, published a piece on what the sudden surge of reverse migration may mean for the public health crisis.
On 3 April, team members Rohini Mitra, Chitra Rawat, and Geetika Varshney published a piece on how India’s international migration corridors may lead to the emergence of certain hotspots.
Our team has also been working to utilise social media to share updates, disseminate information, and connect with relevant stakeholders.
The construction sector employs an estimated 55 million, about a quarter of them, migrants. The lockdown has closed operations in all worksites across the country and left many in a lurch, running out of rations, with limited cash resources, and little knowledge of how to apply for government schemes. The Jan Sahas Rapid Assessment Survey: Voices of Invisible Citizens in the last week of March, which interviewed 3000 workers, found that 94% were not registered with the BoCW, making them ineligible for the numerous schemes announced for BoCW beneficiaries.
IMN, in association with Dvara Trust, is in the process of conducting a telephonic survey based on prior fieldwork done in construction sites in Mumbai. Our team reached out to construction workers for the survey to understand their current situation, cash in and cash out needs. and if the migrant workers were able to access the extra entitlements announced by the Government after the lock-down. The team also provided the workers with numbers of Government helplines and NGOs in cases where the workers asked for help.
A secondary survey with a set of construction workers on site was conducted to understand their immediate ration requirements, remittance needs, and the need for a financial services agent on site.
IMN is also in the process of reaching out to all stakeholders working in the construction sector to get information about construction workers stuck on site in other parts of the country as well.
Results of the surveys will be shared soon.
POLICY FRAMEWORK AND RECOMMENDATIONS
IMN is in the process of developing a comprehensive policy framework for a better understanding of what the current crisis means for migrants. The first question we ask is — who is a migrant?
Migration encompasses a number of strategies and migrants experience different levels of vulnerability, depending on a number of factors such as occupation, gender, caste-class location, and age. Our framework addresses differential migration strategies — semi-permanent, circular — as well as the varying levels of vulnerability associated with the nature of work that migrants do. We also utilise results from the scaled up Interstate Migrant Policy Index (IMPEX) to suggest recommendations for how destination states can provide for their migrants in these trying times.
Migrants form the backbone of modern India in a number of ways. The contribution of migrant labour, in particular, is more clear now than ever before as is that fact that they are one of the most vulnerable groups in the current crisis. It is imperative that mitigation, recovery, and preparedness plans across the world and especially in India, with a 450 million internal and 17.5 million international migrant population, are inclusive of migrants and account for their unique vulnerabilities.
Today, migrants and their households need our help more than ever. At IMN, we are doing our best to provide support, facilitate the work being done by grassroots organisations and collectives, document migrant stories and experiences, and advocate through all channels for their relief and rescue. Please do consider supporting our work by donating through the box below.