Solving migrant workers’ housing crisis

News: Urbanisation and the growth of cities in India have been accompanied by pressure on basic infrastructure and services like housing, sanitation and health.

Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are the two states with an acute housing crisis. 

The migrant workers, and their families, are the ones who bear the brunt of this problem. As per the Census of 2011, there are about 4.5 lakh houseless families, a total population of 17.73 lakh, living without any roof over their heads.  

Shelter, being a basic human need, and the fact that migrant workers are in dire straits due to the pandemic, immediately demands policy intervention by the government.

What are the issues migrant workers face in terms of housing? 

Especially vulnerable to this issue are the migrant workers, who live in extremely unsafe conditions. 

For them, their workplace is their place of lodging too. These places are often unhygienic and poorly ventilated.  

They mostly live in slums and have access only to the poorest infrastructure and services.  

According to a 2020 ILO report on internal labour migrants, the absence of dignified housing is further aggravated by a lack of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. 

How has the pandemic made the situation worse? 

These places where migrants stay lack any means to maintain proper social distancing. 

The wage and job loss during the pandemic made them unable to afford the rental housing. 

According to a survey conducted by Azim Premji University, around 88% of migrants reported that they could not pay the rent for April and May 2020. 

What have been the government initiatives to tackle the problem? 

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Even though there has been an installation of public toilets through Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, their availability may not be adequate in migrant-dense clusters. 

Smart cities initiative: More about it here. Although, Govt’s data shows that 49% of 5,196 projects for which work orders were issued across 100 smart cities in India remain unfinished. 

AMRUT: Efforts like the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) launched in 2005 intended to make the process of urbanisation smooth. It is now in its second phase to make cities water-secure and provide better amenities for the marginalised. 

Atmanirbhar Bharat package: Rs 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat package announced by the government in May 2020 included the provision of affordable rental housing complexes (ARHC) for migrant workers/urban poor. The plan was to convert government-funded housing in the cities into ARHCs through PPPs, and provide incentives to various stakeholders to develop ARHCs on their private land and operate them.  

What is the way forward? 

While developing social rental housing, the state should ensure that the location has proper access to transport networks, education and healthcare. 

The working group by NITI Aayog constituted to study internal labour has recommended that rental housing in the public sector could be expanded through the provision of dormitory accommodation. This would make public housing affordable and reduce the conflict between owners and tenants. 

Also, government should ensure that innovative policymaking initiatives reach their set goal in time. 

Source: This post is based on the article “Solving migrant workers’ housing crisis” published in The Indian Express on 10th Jan 2022.

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