It was like yesterday when millions of migrant workers, having lost most of their resources to sustain during the COVID-19 pandemic, headlined all across the media of their unpleasant and distressed return flight with a ray of hope that their government would hold on to them this time.
However, this hope is entering into the twilight very soon as many of them are now leaving their state and moving back outside for work despite the very present risk in the air.
This is about those people fleeing back outside the state in search of jobs and work from the district of Ganjam in Odisha a couple of days back, but that it would also be from other parts of this state as well as others, is a definite possibility in such unthinkable times.
Statistically, around 90% of the Indian workforce is in the informal sector as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey, 2017-18. Without a doubt, an important stakeholder for the policymaker, the informal sector includes informal workers in the formal sector and small/unregistered enterprise, daily-wage laborers, domestic workers, and all those without social security coverage. They are the major sufferers in the economic impact that the health crisis has brought upon this year. Around 400 million workers to experience the fight against poverty, estimates a report from ILO, and India accounts for 40-50 million migrant workers only who work according to season’s convenience.
Containment of the spread of the virus is a top priority but at the highest level of a democratic nation, the government is equally responsible to take care that people do not die out of hunger, starvation, and poverty. It is the vote of those people because of which the government exists today and hence the government is expected to have a policy legislated as well-executed promptly from the bottom to the top of the pyramid of an economically insecure section of the society. The policies that have come out on paper, for migrant workers, seems to be a political reaction to the situation and less of a ground reality check and future protection.
From the date the lockdown began, the government aid towards these migrants only came up when situations developed into the worst scenario. The promise of providing transport, shelter, relief camps, food, and other amenities went through “inadequacies and certain lapse” on part of the government; admitted in the hearing by the Supreme Court on the 26th of May. The Central government has come out with modification and enhancement of various schemes, like, Atal Beema Vyakti Kalyan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana(PMGKY), MNREGA, etc, but no relevant data are claiming the relief it has provided.
Union Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar had asked the CMs and the Governor of the states to release funds into the account of construction workers using the cess collected by their respective Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Boards; about Rs52,000 crore is available with the boards in the form of cess collected over the years.
Jan Sahas’s survey reported around 94 per cent of labourers did not have BOCW cards, making them ineligible for any transfer. Further, 14 per cent did not have ration cards and 17 per cent did not have bank accounts.
Maybe the beneficiaries itself is ignorant about it (around 60%, according to First Post own survey) or the slow implementations of it have led the migrant workers to now seek work by migrating again.
The cycle of the quest for family support, food, and the existence of livelihood have started once again but with a new hardship of the COVID19 crisis on the head. With the inadequate interventions, the government is in no position to deny that the reverse migration is very well in its ways, and this will only raise criticism on its what-so-ever policies made.
Article Written By Nimai Ranjan Bibhar
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