Thinc Migration: Govt not being able to fulfill responsibilities towards migrants, says Jharkhand CM

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Updated: February 12, 2021 6:07 PM

Talking about the Uttarakhand landslide, the chief minister said that several labourers of Jharkhand got killed but the organizations that took them for work had no information.

hemant sorenHemant Soren said that Jharkhand is a mineral-rich state and migration can be seen in large numbers in states where mining activities take place. (Photo source: IE)

It’s almost a year when India first witnessed very distressing seen on roads as lakhs of migrant workers walked back home after the coronavirus-induced lockdown was announced towards the end of March in 2020. The reality about migration is far more complicated than what we saw on our television screens and newspapers last year. To under this more deeply, The Indian Express has started a series of eight webinars, thinc Migration, presented by the Omidyar Network India.

The inaugural session of the webinar series commenced today with a keynote address by Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. Speaking at the webinar, Soren said that ‘migrant workers’ is not a new term and this is something that has been there even before the East India Company came to India.

Soren said that Jharkhand is a mineral-rich state and migration can be seen in large numbers in states where mining activities take place. “I think to some extent, the government is also responsible for migration. I am also in government and saying this with full responsibility that govt is not being able to fulfill its responsibilities towards them,” he said.

Talking about the Uttarakhand landslide, the chief minister said that several labourers of Jharkhand got killed but the organizations that took them for work had no information.

“There is negligence at all levels. In Border Road Organisation (BRO), labourers are not paid their salary. I was in touch with the Defence Minister over this but in vain. Even during the pandemic, we sent several trains for our workers who were working for the BRO. Following this, the BRO agreed that all the labourers will be hired only after the consensus from the state government and all workers will be properly registered. But nothing is being done as promised,” the chief minister said.

Emphasizing on the importance of migrant labourers in the development of the economy, Soren said they are the ones who are driving the economy and despite it, the government is not concerned about them.

“If they will stop going for work in other places, the economy will literally come to standstill. But we all saw how migrant workers suffered during the pandemic. Not only during the lockdown, but migrant labourers are also facing trouble even today. Recently a news came where several workers of Ranchi are being kept as bonded labourers in Tamil Nadu. Those who took them there are asking them to return the money spent on bringing them to Tamil Nadu if they want to walk free. So this is the situation even today. We are not actively working to rescue them. A few days back we rescued 40 girls from Tamil Nadu, the Jharkhand CM said.

Emphasizing that there is an inadequate framework for migrants in India, Soren said that it is important to make some policies that will help migrants in the future. “It is important to have better coordination between Centre and state governments in order to address the problems like unsafe nature of migration that happens in India, the fragile existence they live.”

Talking about the details of migration, S Irudaya Rajan, professor at the Centre for Development Studies in Kerala, said that there is no real data in India to talk about it.

“It is an irony that we know how many rioters are moving from Punjab and Haryana but how many workers move from one state to another is something we don’t know,” Rajan said.

Talking about the reason behind the migration, Rajan said. “Everybody believes that urbanisation will lead to economic growth. But we should remember that cities mean migration. India is currently having around 600 million people living in places where they were not living two years or five years back.”

Rajan said that there are three types of migration in India – within the district, between districts, and then between states. “If we talk about 600 million migrants, out of them are 140 million are inter-district migrants, 400 million are intra-district and 60 million are within states.”

Ravi S Srivastava, former professor at JNU and currently the director of the Centre for Employment Studies at the Institute for Human Development, said that the pandemic hit a class of migrants and they are called the vulnerable circle of migrants. “They are vulnerable because of their socio-economic position, their position in the job market – whether they work on wages or they were self-employed and people who despite working in cities have a foothold in rural India.”

Alex Paul Menon, Labour Commissioner and Secretary of Food and Civil Supplies in the Chhattisgarh government, said that we are ignorant about labourers in general and migrant in specific.

“All of us, be it government, bureaucrats, politicians, have to accept the fact that we are ignorant about the labour class in general and the migrant labour class in particular,” Menon said.

Menon also highlighted how the lack of access to credible data is leading to the failure of all our policies. “So I find the fundamental lack of data as the biggest flaw in our public policy eco-system. So there is an urgent need to create a credible source of data so that we can track the movement of workers in both organised and unorganised sectors. Then only we will be able to implement our policies in a better way,” he added.

Talking about the migration, Rahul Katyal, managing director of Capacit’e Infraprojects Ltd, said that he had witnessed a V-shaped recovery in terms of migrants workers coming back for work.

“We had around 14,000 workers before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. During the lockdown, this number reduced to around 1,000. But as soon as the lockdown was lifted, we were back to our required normal of 14,000. This is because we take good care of our wokers. So providing better accommodation, food, sanitation can improve the situation of our workforce in India. This can be only regulated only with the help of very strong policies of the government.”

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