A Humanitarian Crisis Reminiscent Of The Partition: An Analysis Of The Migrant Movement

By Balwant Singh Mehta, I. C. Awasthi, Mashkoor Ahmad and Arjun Kumar 

migrant labourers walking home
With no government support of travel, their journey has often been several hundred miles following highways and railway tracks, often hungry and relentlessly tired.

Prelude

With close to 1,00,000 COVID-19 cases, India has entered its eighth week of lockdown. This lockdown 4.0 will remain in force till May 31. Ever since the announcement of the first national lockdown on March 24, the shutdown of transport and sealing of states/districts has created a humanitarian crisis in many states for panic-stricken migrant workers, students, and those between travels and transit.

There have been some relaxations in the rules since lockdown 3.0, and finding ways to tackle the crisis has taken the centre-stage, with many pertinent viewpoints, evidences, experiences and learnings.

Amid a lack of responsive mobility option, despair, treatment alike commodity and inferior citizens and serious concerns of being infected, and the craving to be in the comforts of their homes, several million migrant workers and families, begun to tread on foot. With no government support of travel, their journey has often been several hundred miles following highways and railway tracks, often hungry and relentlessly tired. This has turned into the great human tragedy.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, also raised her concern and said in a statement that she was distressed by the plight of the informal migrant workers affected by the lockdown, many of whom were, in effect, forced to leave the cities where they worked. However, she hailed the government efforts to address the crisis by providing proper shelter and food to these migrants, who were returning to their native places and were actually victims of pandemic.

This kind of chaos finds an eerie similarity during the time of India-Pakistan partition in 1947, when millions of people from both sides were garrote at borders, leading to exceptionally brutal and terrible miseries.

The Supreme Court also ordered all concerned, that is the state government, public authorities and citizens, to comply with directives, advisory and orders issued by the central government in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety. The court directed that the migrant labourers should be dealt with ‘in a humane manner’ and that ‘trained counsellors, community leaders and volunteers must be engaged along with the police to supervise the welfare activities of migrants’.

Risking Everything To Reach Back Home

The reverse movement of thousands of migrants is an ongoing challenge before the governments—centre, state and local. In order to give relief to all of them and prevent infection from spreading, around 40,000 relief camps and shelters have been set up all over the country in which over 14 lakh stranded migrant workers and other needy people are provided relief (April 2020).

Out of this, more than 80% of the relief camps have been set up by states, while the rest are by NGOs. Also, over 26,000 food camps have been set up in which more than 1 crore people have been provided food. Over 16.5 lakh workers are being provided with food and relief by their employers and industries.

The hotspot of these relief shelters and camps are in the cities of Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, etc. The southern states are handling the situation relatively well as compared to the capital, Delhi, and western states.

Migrant workers eating at a relief camp.
Around 40,000 relief camps and shelters have been set up all over the country. 

The statement “saving people lives is more important than economy” has changed over the period; now, economy has become equally important.

As Delhi’s chief minister Kejriwal said on May 4, “We will have to adapt and be ready to live with coronavirus. When all economic activities are shut and revenue generation has stopped, how do we give salaries? How do we run the government?” Prime Minister Narendra Modi also conveyed to chief ministers on April 27 that the country will have to give importance to the economy with continued fight against the novel coronavirus.

However, the people who are called the ‘drivers’ of economic activities are wandering around helplessly and haplessly.

A large number of migrants have already reached their villages, and millions of others are currently in shelter homes. Many who decided to stay back in cities are desperately waiting for the end of the lockdown period to move back to their native places.

This time, many labourers will not come back due to the shock and uncertainty, which means that most of small and medium-sized companies/factories and other such businesses may face the heat once the lockdown period is over. Their production and profits will suffer due to a shortage of labour or contract skilled workers. Further, their wage bill will also rise due to higher payments to retain the limited available labour-force.

Households too would find it tough to run their daily work without the helpers/drivers/maids, etc. Shortage of workers poses a challenge to restart the economy.

Many workers sitting on a pavement.
Many who decided to stay back in cities are desperately waiting for the end of the lockdown period to move back to their native places.

Perils Amidst Lockdown

Migrant workers and families are now desperately leaving for their native places.

Despite repeated assurances from the central and state governments, millions of migrants are desperate to return from cities with double threats to life and livelihood by COVID-19. They are hurt by the fact that cities, the destination places, are treating them badly, and most of them have lost their trust in the government. Instead, they hope to make ends meet in their

However, the early signs of unexpected surge in unemployment rates (Bihar: 47%; Jharkhand: 47%; UP: 22%) at the native places of migrants indicate a threatening picture ahead.

The migrants are not only the economic driver of destinations places but also play a vital role in development and growth of industries, businesses, people and many others. Of course, the state governments are taking care of these migrants at present, but the companies, businessmen, contractors and other highly paid service workers hardly come forward to help these migrants during their hard time.

In this context, the Telangana CM K. Chandrashekhar Rao was the first person who went all out to prevent the exodus of migrant labourers and assured all help to them. He announced in Hindi, the language most of the migrant workers understand, “You are the key drivers of our state economy; we will make all the arrangement and provide you shelter, food and daily cash of ₹500 during the lockdown period and urge you to stay back.

However, similar statements also came from others, such as CMs of Delhi, Haryana, UP and Maharashtra and many others, with marginal or no implementation and reach. Prime Minister Modi has also realized the tragedy of migrants’ and apologized in Mann Ki Baat, but no industrialist, business or business association has made such a gesture.

Migrants walking on railway tracks
Migrants walking long distances to reach their native places

Facets Of Migration From Census 2001 And 2011

In India, the level of urbanization has increased manifolds (about one-third population live in urban areas in 2011 as per Census), which resulted in demographic explosion and poverty-induced rural-urban migration. A large number of people from rural and backward areas have started to migrate to cities and metropolitan regions as well as developed states for better livelihood opportunities and higher standard of living.

Moreover, the movement of internal labour and migration in India, in terms of inter-region has been largely from: eastern to western regions in the country; rural to urban centres—small, medium, big, mega/metro; towards urban centres within district/nearby regions; and urban to urban (among various class sizes); urban to rural; and rural to rural.

In recent times, the purpose and tenure has been subject to changing dynamics, as well as improvements in infrastructure, technology and service delivery.

This is reflected in rising number of inter-state migrants that increased from 42.3 million in 2001 to 56.3 million in 2011. From the total inter-state migrants, one-third (30.3%, i.e. 17.1 million) migrated for economic purposes. The Economic Survey 2017 further estimated that at least 9 million people migrate between states annually within the country with 33% of them for economic purposes.

If this trend continues, the inter-state migrants are estimated approximately around 146 million at present, with 47 million being migrant workers. Over 90% of the migrants are estimated to be male, and the top-source places are Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (eastern India states), while the top destinations places for migration are Delhi and Mumbai (metropolitan regions), and western and southern India.

It is well documented that the migrant workers, engaged in non-high skilled occupation and having less technical education and skills, remain the most vulnerable groups, while being the real builders and maintainers of the cities. These city makers are primarily engaged in casual wage jobs in the informal sector—as construction workers, street vendors, restaurant employees, delivery persons, rickshaw drivers, and so on.

The impact on their lives is precarious as they are dependent on day-to-day work for earnings without any significant social assistance and protection in the event of abrupt cancellations that have happened with the lockdown.

Unfortunately, our cities look cruel to migrants who run the urban life with their hard work, and the state governments’ response for their well-being (or even their count, registry or reach) portray negligence.

Most of the migrants come alone to destinations and visit their native places several times a year. They remain connected with their family and deeply rooted with their native places. It is no wonder then that most of the migrants at the time of national lockdown are eager to return to their native places.

2001-2011: Inter-Censal Findings On Migration Data

In 2011, around 447 million (37% of the total population, including immigrants) have been identified as migrants by place of birth. Across gender, females constituted around 70% of this figure. There has been an increase of about 140 million migrants between 2001 and 2011.

Table on data on Type of Migration by Place of Birth
Source: Computations by authors based on Census of India, 2011.

Majority of the migrants moved short distances, i.e. within their district of birth. Intra-district migrants (those who moved within their district of birth) comprised almost 60%, followed by inter-district migrants (27%) who moved from one district to another within the state of their birth. While about 12.6% migrants moved across state boundaries. International in-migrants comprised only 1.2% of all the migrants by place of birth in 2011 as compared to 2.0% in 2001.

The proportions of various types of migrants were significantly different in rural and urban areas. Inter-state migrants registered a higher proportion in urban areas as compared to the rural areas. Overall, though ratio of females was higher because of marriage migration, among the inter-state migrants in urban areas, the share of male migrants was marginally higher than female migrants.

Data on Reasons for Inter-Censal Migration by Type of Migration in India, 2001-2011 (in %)
Source: Computations by authors based on Census of India, 2001 and 2011. P- persons, M- male and F- female.

In 2011, Maharashtra, with about 9.8 million migrants, was the largest home of inter-state migrants, followed by National Capital Region of Delhi (6.4 million) and Uttar Pradesh (4.0 million) in 2011. Uttar Pradesh, though primarily an out-migrating state, has also emerged as the third-largest destination for inter-state migrants.

During 2001–2011, on the basis of place of last residence, about 134 million people have been identified as internal migrants. Of these, 47.3% migrants moved from rural to rural areas. On the other hand, rural to urban and urban to urban migration streams each comprised about 22% of the total migrants. While urban to rural migration stream only accounted 8.5% migrants during the last decade.

During this period, north Indian states have experienced net out-migration. Uttar Pradesh—the most populated state of India, and Bihar—the most densely populated state and one of the poorest states of India, have emerged as highly out-migrating states. Uttar Pradesh experienced a net loss of 3.4 million people as 1.4 million people in-migrated while 4.8 million people out-migrated from the state during the last decade. Another important state experiencing net out-migration includes Bihar (with a net loss of 2.7 million people) during 2001–2011.

 Number of Migrants and Migration Rates in India during 2001-2011
Source: Computations by Authors based on Census of India, 2011.

Other out-migrating states are Rajasthan, West Bengal, Assam, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. Among south Indian states, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu recorded a negative net migration. Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi have come up as favorite destinations for people from different states of the country.

During 2001–2011, about 3.6 million people entered Maharashtra while only 1.2 million people out-migrated, thereby indicating a net in-migration of 2.4 million people. In all, 15 states have recorded positive net in-migration while 13 states of the country recorded negative net out-migration. Interestingly, all the Union Territories have experienced a positive net in-migration during 2001–2011.

Remarkable differences have been found for reasons of migration across gender. During the period, the most significant reason for migration among males was work/employment (31.4%), among females, it was marriage (60.3 %). Among the inter-state migrants, 51% males migrated for work/employment as compared to 6.1% among females. Among male migrants, 5% migrated for education as compared to 1.7% among females.

Varying Estimates Of Migrant Workers From Official Secondary Sources

There are several estimates floating around about the number of migrants who are leaving the destination (mostly urban) places due to absence of any updated information. Some estimates are:

  1. The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), Employment & Unemployment and Migration Particulars (64th) Round estimates showed that migrant workers were 32 million in 2007–08 .
  2. According to the Census of India, inter-state migrant workers grew annually at the rate of 4.5% from 33 million in 2001 to 51 million in 2011. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had the greatest number of migrants (29 million).
  3. As per the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), migrant workers grew annually at the rate of 21% from 16 million in 2004–05 to 60 million in 2011–12.
  4. Economic Survey 2016–17 estimated 80 million migrant workers, and over half of these migrants belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while Delhi region received around half of the total migrant population. Further, the survey suggested around 9 million workers migrate across states annually.
  5. Estimates based on Census 2011 and NSSO shows that the total number of inter-state migrants in India stands at around 65 million in 2020. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar account for 25% and 14% respectively. Other estimates after including the short-term circular migrants shows that there are about 140 million inter-state migrant workers in India in 2020. This includes nearly 60 million short-term circular migrants in 2020, which are left out from the census and other surveys.

Desperation To Return Home: Latest Numbers From Administrative Data

The above estimates are only indicative; the visible reports of current registration by migrants to return home clearly reflect their desperation. About two million have registered in UP (one million returned as well), over 6,00,000 in Jharkhand, and about 1 million in Bihar for coming home. On the other hand, 2 million migrants registered to go home from Gujarat, 644 thousand from Punjab, 225 thousand from Telangana, and over 146 thousand from Haryana.

The registered data reveals that over three-fourth of the registered migrants are either from Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. The registration process is still on, and more will register to return to home.

migrant labourer walking with their belongings
Many migrant labourers have registered to return to their homes.

Their desperation to go home can be seen that even after announcement of various measures, including assurance of essentials and retaining their livelihood by opening the economic activities, they are not ready to stay anymore. Many of them do not have proof of domicile in the places they work and cannot get a ration card, and thus, remain out of the ambit of the public distribution system.

More than a month of nationwide lockdown has dried up the sources of livelihood for migrant workers in different parts of the country. The Union Home Ministry has passed an order allowing inter-state movement of these workers.

Even as shelter homes and relief camps were set up to support the millions of migrants who were stranded across the country, many of them now did manage to return to their villages and others are waiting to go. By all accounts, most of them have spent the past two months in overcrowded shelters arranged by governments, civil society groups or employers.

Most are upset over the treatment they received from their employers and know that cities still have not accepted them. Even after so many years of contribution in the progress of destination places, the governments have not provided them any assistance and broken their trust. They live in rented houses in slums and informal settlements, construction sites, pavements without proper supplies of water, sanitation facilities and electricity.

In rural areas or at origin places, they can access government welfare schemes such as MGNREGS, PM Kisan Yojana, ration from Public Distribution System, and many others. However, in absence of documents or IDs in cities or urban areas, they cannot access such government welfare schemes. This is one important lesson they learnt during this pandemic.

Hence, they are desperate to return to their native places. The relief camps set up for them have merely delayed the inevitable. Now, the central government and many state governments have ensured the safe return of migrants to their home. Despite industry concerns, a number of states refused to stop the special trains and buses arranged for this purpose; however, migrant workers need to fill in registration forms to travel back by special trains, which many of them find difficult. So, many still prefer to travel on-foot or by cycle.

Economic Drivers Of The Nation: The Real Invisible Hands

Migrant workers are considered to be the backbone of economic activities in urban centres across India, and the industry people and employers are realizing this for the first time. The fact remains that activities in their industries will not see a recovery without the migrant labourers. Most relatively-developed or industrialized states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, and Karnataka would face a labour crisis due to reverse migration, leading to concerns over the looming economic crisis. There are questions on what will happen to small- and medium-sized industries and other economic activities that are fully dependent upon these labourers.

a migrant labourer at a construction site
These city makers are primarily engaged in casual wage jobs in the informal sector—as construction workers, street vendors, restaurant employees, delivery persons, rickshaw drivers, and so on.

It is true that these migrants are not only an economic agent at destination places, but also at their origin places by sending huge amounts of money as remittances to their families. Therefore, the economy of migrant’s home states will also be affected badly by this reverse migration on four counts:

  1. Increasing pressure to generate livelihood opportunities for returning migrants
  2. Reduction in remittances or cash flow from the out-migrants
  3. In the absence of adequate employment opportunities, the joblessness in rural areas will surge further
  4. Fear of spread the pandemic in hitherto COVID-19-free regions

Thus, businesses and other industrial bodies have already started putting pressure on the governments to stem the reverse migration.

Few Suggestions And The Way Forward

Workers holding their identity cards
The Supreme Court has already urged the government for ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme during lockdown. Such a permanent solution is need of the hour.

Migrant workers are often considered nowhere citizen and denied their entitlements. They form the poorest and the most disadvantaged sections of the society. This vulnerable lot is invisible and mostly neglected in policy discourse. The current pandemic witnessed their widespread misery and untold sufferings.

The most important question would be finding a job or means of livelihood for returning migrants. States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand are worst hit by the reverse migration. If the migrants decide to stay back at the origin for a longer period, it will pose a huge challenge to the home and destination state governments as well as the economy.

Some of the following short-term and long-term policy suggestions are given for the betterment of migrants, who should not be treated as ‘outsiders’ but as an ‘economic agents’:

1. The central and state governments should work in synchronization to protect the interests of both migrant workers and the employers. After the lifting of lockdown, the challenge is to bring back the migrants to restart economic activities in urban areas. They should be provided dignified jobs with assurance of social security and other facilities, such as housing and safe environment with provision of assistance for returning them to their native places in times of crises.

2. A large number of inter-state migrants used to migrate to the cities by leaving their families at the place of origin, and frequently visited them and also sent money. In such cases, the documentation or identification proofs of a migrant could be different from the destination state or where they work. However, these documents (such as ration card and Aadhar) are crucial for receiving social security benefits.

In this connection, there is an urgent need to form universal documents (applicable to all states) or ensure portability of benefits across the country such as Public Distribution Systems, MGNREGA, health insurance and other benefits. The Supreme Court has already urged the government for ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme during lockdown. Such a permanent solution is need of the hour.

3. There is an urgent need to maintain a dynamic registry for the migrants to prepare a database, supplemented with their skill-sets and job requirement details for greater usage. This would ensure that appropriate policy measures can be taken for the welfare of migrants in the times of pandemics, like the current one.

The state can employ the unskilled returning migrants to some extent under the government’s MGNREGA scheme, and generate suitable employment for skilled workers to retain the return of migrants in the long run. These registries need to be instituted using latest digital technologies and innovations, along with a dynamic unemployment registry to provide direct economic (universal basic income), health (universal coverage), and other necessary contingency protection and support in an integrated ecosystem.

5. According to the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act (ISMW) Act 1979, an inter-state migrant worker is any person who is recruited by or through licensed contractors. However, most of the migrant workers are not recruited through licensed contractors; so a huge number of migrants are excluded from getting the benefit of ISMW act. This act is only applicable to establishments which have five or more inter-state migrant workers or employees. The current crisis has exposed the inadequacy of this act. There is a need to modify the existing ISMW act for the welfare of inter-state migrants.

6. Similarly, under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, the state governments have funds collected in the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board. However, the list of the workers and the usage of the fund under the board have serious impediments which needs to be improved to make it impactful.

7. While the Census is held decennially, the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) is used to fill the gap with surveys on employment and migration every five years. The Census does provide the aggregated numbers with limited qualitative dimensions. The last NSSO survey on internal migration and outmigration was held in 2007–08. Hence, it is an opportune time for a comprehensive plan to address the data lags.

8. Certainly, the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless (SUH) has not been able to demonstrate its commitment of ‘Antyodaya’ for the urban and shelter poor. In fact, DAY-NULM which could have come to the rescue of these workers, itself suffers from several inherent challenges.

For instance, for the last 18 months, the Government has been mulling over the idea of outsourcing the upkeep of the mission to corporates and philanthropic institutions. This implicit failure of the Government that led to the generation of such an idea is further amplified by hiring big private consultants as project monitoring units, having a “corporate-style target achievement attitude”.

Further, the inconsiderate approach of the authorities during times of economic slowdown, when the migrant workers are the hardest hit, is evident from the meagre increase in the budgetary allocation for DAY-NULM vis-à-vis the flagship schemes of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA). It was ₹750 crore (in 2019–20), and was raised by only 6% to ₹795 crore in 2020–21.

There is also a need for an urgent action task force (in short term) and homeless policy (in medium term) in all the states to tackle these issues in a more planned manner in the future. This includes expanding the SUH component of DDU-NULM to meet decent space and shelter requirements, along with catering to the shelter needs of women, children, elderly, persons with disabilities through community kitchens; medical help; in-kind assistance through public distribution systems, water, toilets, etc.

9. The innovative approach in Chapter 11 of the Economic Survey 2019–20, “Thalinomics: The Economics of a Plate of Food in India”, that attempts to quantify what a common person pays for a thali (platter) across India, deserves special mention. It estimates that the all-India price of a decent vegetarian and non-vegetarian meal (constructed using the dietary guidelines by National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, for Indians) as little under ₹25 and ₹40, respectively.

Therefore, in the current health emergency, the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) package should be expanded to ensure a balanced diet and dignified food assistance is provided to the poor.

Understandably, to provide the minimum assistance to achieve these norms for balanced diet and sundry expenses, direct cash transfer of around ₹2000 per person per month (that is a dollar a day) should also be implemented as an option in addition to the PDS system, especially given the failure of the food distribution system and delivery capacity as observed in the past few months during the crisis.

10. Given the importance of prevention of spread of the coronavirus, contact tracing, surveillance, e-passes and other such usage of Aarogya Setu app, harnessing the technology, an android phone supporting the app should be made available to each citizen, especially to the migrants who are at more risk. Graded approach can be taken for ensuring the availability based upon the affordability of Individuals and families.

Latest Updates (At The Start Of National Lockdown 4.0)

Nirmala Sitharaman announcing the details of the economic package
FM Nirmala Sitharaman provided details of the economic package, after Modi announced it on May 12.

The Prime Minister announced a special economic and comprehensive package of ₹20 lakh crore on May 12, 2020. As part of the economic measures “Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan” (Self Reliant India Campaign), the Finance Minister announced many short- and long-term measures for supporting the poor, including migrant workers. Along with this, some of the other latest announcements pertaining to migrant workers are:

  • Free food grains supply to migrants for two months: This includes distribution of free food grains and pulses to 8 crores migrant labourers. Additional food grain to all the States/UTs at the rate of 5 kg per migrant labourer and 1 kg chana per family per month for two months, i.e. May and June, 2020, free of cost shall be allocated. Migrant labourers not covered under National Food Security Act or without a ration card in the State/UT in which they are stranded at present will be eligible. The entire outlay of ₹3,500 crores will be borne by the Government of India.
  • To provide a fillip to employment, the Government will now allocate an additional ₹40,000 crore under MGNREGS: The Centre has decided to allocate an additional ₹40,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). In the Union Budget 2020–21, the government had allocated ₹61,500 crore for MGNREGS, and the ₹40,000 crore allocation will be over and above the budget estimate. This move will help generate nearly 300 crore jobs in total.
  • Technology system to be used, enabling migrants to access PDS (Ration) from any Fair Price Shops in India by March, 2021—One Nation, one Ration Card: Pilot scheme for portability of ration cards will be extended to 23 states. By that, 67 crore beneficiaries, covering 83% of PDS population, will be covered by National Portability of Ration Cards by August, 2020. 100% national portability will be achieved by March, 2021. This is part of PM’s Technology-Driven System Reforms. This scheme will enable a migrant worker and their family members to access PDS benefits from any Fair Price Shop in the country. This will ensure that the people in transit, especially migrant workers can also get the benefit of PDS across the country.
  • Scheme for Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) for Migrant Workers and Urban Poor to be launched: The Central Government will launch a scheme for migrant workers and urban poor to provide ease of living at affordable rent. Affordable Rental Housing Complexes will provide social security and quality life to migrant labourers, urban poor, students, etc. This will be done by converting government-funded houses in the cities into ARHC under PPP mode through concessionaire; manufacturing units, industries, institutions, and associations to develop ARHC on their private land and operate them; and incentivizing State Govt agencies/Central Government organizations on similar lines to develop ARHC and operate them. The exact details of the scheme will be released by the Ministry/Department.
  • National Migrant Information System (NMIS)—a central online repository on Migrant Workers: It is being developed by NDMA to facilitate their seamless movement across states. In order to capture the information regarding movement of migrants and facilitate the smooth movement of stranded persons across states, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has developed an online Dashboard—National Migrant Information System (NMIS). The online portal would maintain a central repository on migrant workers and help in speedy inter-State communication/co-ordination to facilitate their smooth movement to native places. It has additional advantages like contact tracing, which may be useful in overall COVID-19 response work.
  • In order to ensure safer and quicker transportation of migrants, Indian Railways ready to run Shramik Special trains from all the districts connected by Railways in the country: Indian Railways has got the capacity to run almost 300 Shramik special trains a day, however, less than half are being presently utilised. Full capacity operation of the railways would provide significant relief to the migrants across the country, who are seeking to go to their home states. Indian Railways is ready to augment the running of Shramik special trains as per the actual needs of the districts. As of May 17, 2020, more than 15 lakh migrants have already been transported by the Railways to their home states and almost 1150 Shramik Special trains have been operational. Indian Railways can easily transport almost double number of migrants per day. Once the information about migrants wishing to go back to their home states is made available from each district, then Indian Railways can take further action.
  • PM CARES Fund Trusts allocates ₹1000 Crores for Relief Measures for Migrants: For strengthening the existing measures being taken for the welfare of the migrants and poor, the States/UTs will be given a lumpsum assistance of total ₹1000 Crore from PM CARES Fund. This amount would be provided to the state governments/UTs to place it at the disposal of the district collectors/municipal commissioners for strengthening their efforts in providing accommodation facilities, making food arrangements, providing medical treatment, and making transportation arrangements of the migrants. State/UT-wise funds will be released on the weightage of:
    (a) Population of the State/UT as per 2011 Census – 50%, weightage
    (b) Number of positive COVID-19 cases as on date – 40% weightage, and
    (c) Equal share (10% weightage) for all states/UTs to ensure basic minimum sum for all states.
    The fund will be released to the district collectors/district magistrates/municipal commissioners through the State Disaster Relief Commissioner of the States/UTs concerned.
  • In the wake of several instances of deaths amidst the humanitarian crisis of migrant workers, several state governments, like UP, Delhi among others, have started active monitoring on the ground to ensure that no migrant workers are stranded on the transport route, and they safely reach their homes.

Summing up

Migrant Labourers sitting
In the post-COVID-19 situation, bringing back the confidence and trust of the migrant workers will be one of the most important foundations to fix the economy.

In retrospect, the national lockdown 3.0 period may offer many lessons to employers, workers and governments. For migrants, distance matters, and the lockdown has given a new lesson that could lead to a significant reduction in long-distance migration, especially without appropriate incentives and adhering to safety norms.

The number of migrants, who fled the big cities, may now prefer to work in their marginal farms or find work in nearby towns. It could deprive many manufacturing units and business centers in Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Tripura and Gurugram, etc. for a long period of time, and the businesses and economy are likely to face a recession, if not depression.

In this process, the sources states will also have the burden of rising labour force with more unemployed or underemployed people. They need to create more job opportunity in rural areas, particularly in non-farm activities with a gainful employment to those migrants, who do not want to go back to the cities and rely on their day-to-day labour for earning their livelihood and make a decent living.

Undeniably, this is an unprecedented situation, and the ways and means to tackle the same have to be sensitive, responsive, quick and above all, caring. In the post-COVID-19 situation, bringing back the confidence and trust of the migrant workers, over the course of time, by the governments and market stakeholders, will be one of the most important foundation stepping stone towards the envisaged vision of New India.

The article was first published here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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