As Bihar Gears Up For Assembly Election, Here’s A Look At Labour Migration In The State

In this election year, Bihari, a word having a negative connotation of the migrant labourer, is gaining importance due to the fact that the opposition leaders are using it as the most objective indicator for describing the poor economy of the state and to further conclude the failure of  Susashan Babu even after enjoying the throne for 15 consecutive years.

While in the backdrop of statistics that the state is one of the fastest-growing economy based on the SGDP growth rate and compounded with the fact that the state is a revenue surplus state since 2008-09, the finance minister of the state, Sushil Kumar Modi, is counter arguing that antagonistic to the previous regime, now, the youth is migrating for better opportunities not for opportunities merely.

Further, he has also counted remittances which the state receives due to the emigration and out-state migration of its potential workers as the positive externalities of migration. Furthermore, he has blamed the post-Shri Krishna Singh regimes for the current status of the state.

Keeping the above mentioned facts in mind, there is a need to assess whether migration is really for employment or better employment and to comprehend the role of remittances in the development of states.

The attempt to differentiate the migration in present and past based on the availability of opportunities or better opportunities appear more as a political statement and definitely far away from the reality.

Unlike others, labour migration from the state is not only the product of the cyclic nature of the economy, but there are various factors responsible for the migration starting from subsistence agriculture-based work-force, frequent calamities (floods and droughts), demographic dividend, and least urbanization.

Given the fact that the maximum proportion (almost 50% as per Bihar Economic Survey, 2019-20) of state workforce is engaged in agriculture and related activities which are largely subsistence as well as traditional in nature; hence, the disguised unemployment rate has to be very high in the state.

In addition, calamities in the form of floods and droughts are very regular in one or another part of the state which would, without much doubt, motivate the disguised unemployed to pick another employment option. But, in the absence of well-performing manufacturing opportunities and also due to least urbanization which facilitates trading and service sector opportunities, migration appears first as well as last option to the youth. In addition, the state houses maximum numbers of youth in the country. Thereby, the numbers of migrants have to staggeringly high.

Besides the above mentioned, the failure in implementing the minimum wage rate also motivates one to migrate to other states. As per Economic Survey of Bihar (2019-20), Bihar is such a state wherein the participation of casual worker in total workforce (32.1%) is very high (significantly greater than the national average of 24.3%). Therefore, there is a towering possibility of failure in implementing the minimum wage rate in the state.

There is no doubt that in the past few years, the economic growth rate has been far better than the national average for which the current regime can pat its own back despite being a BIMARU state; a status which it has earned in the mid-1980s due to the failure of previous regimes at economic front.

However, the attempt to differentiate the migration of present and past based on the availability of opportunities or better opportunities appear more as a political statement and definitely far away from the reality as availability of other employment options for the willing and qualified workforce is still very much questionable.

In addition, counting remittances as the success story also indicate the ignorance of policymakers, despite the literary evidence which suggests that the maximum proportion of the remittances are used for the household consumption not directly for the development of the states. Further, if the migrants are casual labourers than the possibility of utilization of remittances for the consumption purpose becomes more prominent.

In lieu of remittances, the philanthropic contribution of the Diaspora community is a more constructive mean for the betterment of the state. In this regard, with the help of Bihar Foundation, praiseworthy attempts are being made by the state government.

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