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Migrant Workers in India

2023 NOV 27

Mains   > Social justice   >   Human Resources   >   Miscellaneous

SYLLABUS

GS 2 > Social Justice> Vulnerable groups

REFERENCE NEWS

The recent tragic incident of the collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand highlights the dangerous working conditions and societal neglect towards migrant workers in India.

WHO ARE MIGRANTS?

  • The International Organization for Migration defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his/her habitual place of residence.
  • Internal migrants are people who move within the country for work. This movement includes rural-to-urban migration, rural-to-rural, within and between states, and circular or seasonal relocations.
  • They typically come from poor states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand, seeking jobs in richer regions such as Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Karnataka.

STATISTICS OF INTERNAL MIGRATION IN INDIA:

The 2011 census reported the number of internal migrants in India at 45.36 crore, making up 37% of the country’s population. This number included both inter-state migrants and migrants within each state.

 

CAUSES OF INTERNAL MIGRATION IN INDIA:

PULL FACTORSPUSH FACTORS

Employment Opportunity

Education facilities

Better quality of life in urban areas 

Higher per capita income and larger dominance of non-agricultural sector 

Lack of security: (Political disturbances, ethnic conflicts, communal riots etc.)

Marriage

Climate Migration (drought, floods, heat waves etc.)

POSITIVE IMPACT OF MIGRATION

  • Meet labor demand: Migration fills gaps in demand for and supply of labor and efficiently allocates skilled labor, unskilled labor, and cheap labor.
  • Economic remittances: The economic well-being of migrants provides insurance against risks to households in the areas of origin, and increases consumer expenditure and investment in health, education, and asset formation.
  • Social remittances: Migration helps to improve the social life of migrants, as they learn about new cultures, customs, and languages which helps to improve brotherhood among people and ensures greater equality and tolerance.
  • Skill development: Migration enhances the knowledge and skills of migrants through exposure and interaction with the outside world.
  • Demographic advantage: As a result of outmigration, the population density of the place of origin is reduced and the birth rate decreases.
  • Climate change adaptive mechanism: Migration has also emerged as a possible adaptive mechanism in the context of climate change and the occurrence of extreme weather events like floods, droughts, and cyclones.

ISSUES & CHALLENGES:

Inadequate data:

  • The government data on migration within the country is not comprehensive and, in many cases, old. 
  • Migrants often lack proper personal identification in the destination states. This hinders their accessibility to social security measures like healthcare.
  • Ex: During the COVID-19 lockdown, this lack of identification meant many migrants couldn’t access relief funds or food rations, as reported by various NGOs.

Vulnerabilities related to labour market:

  • Migrant workers comprise nearly 60% of occupationally vulnerable workers outside agriculture.
  • Low wages, high risk jobs, non-payment of salary, long working hours and the fear of being replaced are the main constituents of vulnerability for migrants in the informal labour market.

Unsafe Working Conditions: Instances like the Uttarakhand tunnel incident underscore the risks they face, including building collapses and industrial accidents due to inadequate safety measures.

Inadequate Legal Protection: The only law addressing their needs, the Interstate Migrant Workmen Act of 1979, is poorly implemented. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and neglect.

Discrimination and Social Exclusion: They are often treated as outsiders and face discrimination in their host cities. There are no policies specifically designed to protect their rights and well-being. Ex: Recent rumour-driven panic among migrants in TN.

Poor Living Conditions: Many migrant workers live in slums or informal settlements with inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, and healthcare.(NSSO)

Alter the demographic profile: Emigration in large numbers can alter the demographic profiles of communities, as most of the young men move out, leaving only the women and elderly to work on the land. Ex: Feminisation of Agriculture

GOVERNMENT SCHEMES

  • National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW): Aims to create a comprehensive database with Aadhaar-seeded information like name, occupation, and skills, enhancing employability and social security access.
  • Schemes for Welfare: Includes Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan, Pradhan Mantri SVANIDHI Scheme, Aatm Nirbhar Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, One Nation One Ration Card, and financial assistance for construction workers.
  • All India Survey on Migrant Workers: Conducted by the Labour Bureau for detailed insights into migrant workers’ conditions.
  • Education and Scholarships: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan provides free education to children of migrant workers. Scholarships are offered through the National Scholarship Portal.
  • Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code (OSH Code) 2020: This code replaces the Inter-state Migrant Workmen Act (1979), ensuring better working conditions, wages, and social security for migrant workers.

BEST PRACTICES

Kerala:

  • The migrant laborers are addressed as ‘guest workers’ by the State.
  • The government has started ‘Apna Khar’ project which aims at providing these workers with proper accommodation.
  • Under the ‘Awas’ scheme, each worker can avail free treatment of up to Rs. 25,000 from government empanelled hospitals.
  • Project Changathi is a literacy scheme targeted at migrant children for them to learn Malayalam.

Tamil Nadu:

  • Created a digital databank of migrant workers employed in industries, particularly the MSMEs and hospitality sectors, across the State.

 WAY FORWARD

  • Develop Comprehensive Policies: Create specific policies addressing the unique needs of migrant workers, including healthcare, housing, and education for their children.
  • Enhance Safety Measures: Implement stricter safety protocols in workplaces, especially in high-risk environments like construction sites, to prevent incidents like the Uttarakhand tunnel collapse.
  • Build Thoughtful Cities: Develop urban areas that prioritize the dignity and needs of migrant workers. Move beyond just “smart cities” to create spaces that are accommodating and respectful of those who migrate for work.

The effective integration and welfare of India's internal migrants are not just a matter of social justice but a crucial step towards harnessing their potential to drive inclusive and sustainable development across the nation. Addressing their challenges comprehensively will not only improve their lives but also contribute significantly to the economic and social fabric of India.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Q: Examine the multifaceted impact of internal migration in India, focusing on its socio-economic implications, and discuss the measures needed to address the challenges faced by internal migrants.(15marks, 250words)