Relevant news: On September 28, a 14-month-old was raped allegedly by a migrant labourer in a small village in Sabarkantha in north Gujarat. The incident sent shock waves in the region and triggered a massive backlash against the growing number of migrants in a rapidly industrialising Gujarat.
Source: The Hindu
In India, over the recent decades, agrarian distress and an increase in better-paying jobs in urban areas have been drivers of internal migration. Data show that employment-seeking is the principal reason for migration in regions without conflict.
Challenges faced by migrants:
- Lack of skills: At the destination of migration, a migrant’s lack of skills presents a major hindrance in entering the labour market.
- Lack of enough jobs: The modern formal urban sector has often not been able to absorb the large number of rural workers entering the urban labour market. This has led to the growth of the ‘urban informal’ economy, which is marked by high poverty and vulnerabilities.
- Discrimination: There are various forms of discrimination which do not allow migrants to graduate to better-paying jobs. Migrant workers earn only two-thirds of what is earned by non-migrant workers, according to 2014 data.
- Exploitation: Migrants have to incur a large cost of migration which includes the ‘search cost’ and the hazard of being cheated. Often these costs escalate as they are outside the state-provided health care and education system; this forces them to borrow from employers in order to meet these expenses. And frequent borrowing forces them to sell assets towards repayment of their loans. Migrants face the denial of basic needs such as identity documentation, social entitlements, housing and financial services.
- Harsh working conditions – The pathetic conditions migrant workers face have been widely documented. They earn low wages, work very long hours without any overtime benefits, and are almost without any leave or social protection.
Under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act and other labour laws (for unorganised workers), migrant workers are legally entitled to all their basic labour rights. These include minimum wages, regular wage payment, regular working hours and overtime payment, and decent working and living conditions which include taking care of the health and education of their children. Under the same Act, the governments of the States from where migrant workforce originate are expected to issue licences to contractors who take workers away, register such workers and also monitor their working and living conditions in other States.
Condition of women migrants –
The 2011 Census reveals that women form almost 70 per cent of internal migration. The export-oriented economic development has created demand for women labour. Women migrants remain mostly discriminated in the workforce and invariably suffer economic exclusion. Denied maternity benefits or special care and more vulnerable to sexual harassment, these women migrants are more likely to be paid less than male migrants and non-migrant women. Low-skilled women migrants often get work that is saddled with health hazards.
The absence of individual-specific ration cards and the need to surrender the old card to move to a new ration card poses unique problems for women migrants who are only recognised as dependents in a male-headed household. This also limits women migrants’ ability to access financial services.
Source: The Indian Express
The benefits of migration:
Internal migration has resulted in the increased well being of households, especially for people with higher skills, social connections and assets. Migrants belonging to lower castes and tribes have also brought in enough income to improve the economic condition of their households in rural areas and lift them out of poverty. This has helped to improve the creditworthiness of the family members left behind — they can now obtain loans more easily. Short-term migration to urban areas also has a big role in improving rural livelihoods.
Need for a ‘national policy for migrants’:
A national policy focused on migrants would go a long way in improving their economic and social conditions. A policy would provide a direction and planning to the efforts of improving the conditions of the migrants. The ‘national policy’ must encompass the following components:
- The policy must focus on two broad areas. The first kind could aim at reducing distress-induced migration and the second in addressing conditions of work, terms of employment and access to basic necessities.
- The policy must distinguish between interventions aimed at ‘migrants for survival’ and ‘migrants for employment’. Continued dynamic interventions over long periods of time would yield better results compared to single-point static interventions.
- In the decision making process, the policy must provide for the inclusion of local bodies and NGOs which bring about structural changes in local regions.
- There is a need for interventions aimed at enhanced skill development which would enable easier entry into the labour market.
- Interventions aimed specifically at addressing the needs of individual and household migrants are needed because household migration necessitates access to infrastructure such as housing, sanitation and health care more than individual migration does.
- As remittances from migrants are increasingly becoming the lifeline of rural households, improved financial infrastructure to enable the smooth flow of remittances and their effective use require more attention from India’s growing financial sector.
- The national policy should integrate migration and the needs of migrants, in particular women migrants, their aspirations and empowerment and ensure their right to the city and better infrastructure, and gender-friendly service delivery.
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