The move to create a database of migrant and informal sector workers will help mount effective relief in future crises
The IR Code inter alia deals with trade unions and working conditions.
While the government, as it has admitted in Parliament, has little data on migrant labour—something that the Covid-19 lockdowns thoroughly exposed—it is now coming up with a national registry of informal labourers and migrant workers. Thanks to the lack of data, there is also no way of knowing the impact of the pandemic in terms of lost income. MGNREGA provided some succour to workers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the lockdowns and its impact on the MSMEs.
Experts have been calling for a similar programme for urban informal labour. Even if the government chooses against such a programme, the proposed registry can help mount effective relief to migrant and informal sector workers in urban areas in the future. It will also be a tool to map benefit disbursal and check for duplication/leakages.
Although the plans are to link this with Aadhaar, so that it is easier later to introduce direct benefit transfers, the first hurdle that the government will need to cross would be creating the skeleton for the repository, as it has little way of knowing migration patterns. A better approach would be to merge this exercise with the next census and deploy technology to update information on informal workers in real-time going forward. Besides, there is also a need to strengthen systems like ‘one nation, one ration card’, which the government introduced earlier this year.