A Crisis of Reverse Migration

Synopsis- As the Covid-19 curb expands, a crisis of reverse migration of labors from manufacturing centers to native places has appeared once again.

  • The second wave of COVID-19 brings a threat of national-wide lockdown. It triggered a mass migration of low-wage migrant workers from industrial centers and cities to their native places just like a year ago.
  • As per study, only 5 – 7.7 percent of migrants reported being engaged in MGNREGA.
  • The Centre and the state governments have failed to learn from the previous lockdown.

The misery of migrant workers is that existing government programmes cannot provide gainful employment opportunities to the migrants at their native places.

Impact of Pandemic on migrant worker-

ICRIER, in collaboration with the Inferential Survey Statistics and Research Foundation (ISS&RF) conducted a three phase survey on migrant workers. It aimed to assess the varying degrees of vulnerabilities among the migrants prior to, during, and after the first lockdown.

  • As per survey, after reverse migration there were no employment opportunity for these migrants in their native places. Thus, their household incomes fell by 86%.
  • The following data shows the employment status of migrant workers at native places after reverse migration-
      • 35.4 percent had no employment
      • involvement in agriculture as self-employed (SE) labour was 35.8 percent.
      • 9.7 percent worked as agriculture labour.
      • 4.6 percent in MNREGA and other public works.
      • 12.2 percent as casuals in other non-agriculture work.
How can the government help migrant workers?
  1. Firstly, Priority should be given to the portability of entitlements and social safety nets.
    • Expansion of one-nation, one-ration-card scheme to make subsidized grains available at places of work in cities and industrial centres.
    • Provide free ration to migrant workers from the government overflowing godowns.
    • Financial help under the Garib Kalyan Yojana must extend to migrants to help them remain in their cities of their work.
    • Migrant workers should put under group medical insurance.
  2. Secondly, existing government programmes should be strengthened-
    • The scope of employment under MGNREGA should be expanded to include a wide range of skilled and unskilled migrants.
    • The government should engage returning migrants in the creation of new agri-value chains. It can generate sustainable jobs.
  3. Thirdly, Comprehensive database on migrants – The government should digitize all data on migrant workers in order to develop an action plan in the event that another mass migration occurs.

Source- The Indian Express

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