Skip to main content

Govt of India behaving like 'nanny state' by trying to find jobs for migrants in cities


By Rit Nanda*
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff, Barack Obama, Former President of the USA
It seems odd to start an article with perhaps one of the most cynical political quotes of recent times, but it is imperative that we see the truth in the latter part of the quote that a crisis is an opportunity to do things anew. And crises do not come bigger than the COVID-19 pandemic currently ravaging the globe.
Traditional supply chains dictate that raw materials are generally found outside cities in rural areas. They are generally reprocessed in industrial towns. They are then serviced and consumed in the urban centres, which act as the economic hubs. Such supply chains can be seen at both national and international level. For example, mud from river beds is brought to industrial towns to make bricks which are then brought to the city to use in its burgeoning real estate.
Also economics dictates that jobs that involve service or manufacturing are generally better compensated than those that simply involve production of raw material. It is vital to monetize to recognize human endeavour. This natural flow of supply chain has for years created a steady stream of migrants from our rural to our urban centres as we have moved further and further away from an agrarian society.
But seasonal migrants who come to the towns and cities from villages are not better off away from their homes. They simply come because they earn more and therefore can send more money back home to take care of their family. It is the same reason so many Indians go to the Middle East to work as labourers; not because living conditions there are better but because monetary savings to send back to their families are better.
Hence, we see desperation in migrant workers to return home to their villages now that they do not have any earning in the cities due the COVID-19 lockdown. Because of the lockdown, it is not even sure how many small businesses will go under as no stimulus package was introduced for Small and Medium Enterprises going into even the fourth week of the extended lockdown. So, it is not even guaranteed how many rural migrants will be able to return to their jobs once the lockdown is removed.
Therefore, it is this writer’s contention that the migrants are allowed to move back to villages after the lockdown. However, it must be then noted with some dismay that the government has taken the opposite tack and is instead trying to be a nanny state by trying to find jobs for workers in the state they are currently stuck in. This is as per the Union Home Ministry recommendation that came on April 19, 2020.
While the guideline might be in the right spirit, it is completely misguided in that no government can provide jobs for so many newly unemployed people, majority of whom survive on the basis of day-to-day work. Furthermore, it needlessly distorts the market for the last few weeks of the lockdown because the moment the lockdown is over people would want to move back to their villages thereby creating a labour shortage where they were temporarily employed. 
This is also unwise because, whether the government likes to hear or not, an economic slowdown is coming and that means the private sector has less capacity to employ these migrants. Inevitably, many will therefore be out of jobs and being stuck in the city is not an option for them.
So, instead of wasting these two weeks trying to micromanage free markets, the job of the government should be to enable those who are going back to the villages to find work there. This means moving some components of the supply chain away from the cities. We must learn our lessons from past pandemics in India, mainly the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that had such a devastating effect.
If migrants crowd back into cities, where social distancing is impossible, it might lead to a second surge of COVID-19
Reports suggest famine like conditions in villages forced many people to move to densely populated cities which further exacerbated the spread of the pandemic. Considering how weak our current levels of testing are, there is a huge chance that if migrants crowd back into cities, where social distancing is impossible, it might lead to a second surge of COVID-19.
This is the opportunity that this pandemic gives. Already we are seeing an exploding urban population and it is dispiriting for a major economy to see so many urban poor living in such squalor. If we can take this opportunity to distribute service sector industries away from cities to towns and the process industries towards village hubs, we can eliminate the problem of urban dependence of our economy which causes fallouts such as urban poverty and lower quality of lives for the migrants. Let us look at some industries that can be moved towards the towns and rural belt.
The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai’s research as reproduced by Aajeevika Bureau found that majority of the migrants are employed in construction, domestic work, textile, brick kilns, transportation, mines and quarries and agriculture, given in decreasing order.
Among them, the glut in construction in the cities is because many people from the middle class migrate to cities where the white collar service jobs are. If the government uses this pandemic to reorient itself where service jobs can move to smaller towns where broadband facilities are already there, BPO and IT support services can easily move to smaller towns.
This has an added bonus that the universities in the hinterlands will now have access to industry, so students in there will study seriously instead of losing hope for a better life. As more people are employed in smaller towns, domestic work opportunities will also increase there and decrease in the cities. Similarly, textile industries can be moved away from the cities. Cotton, which is the main textile crop, is grown in Deccan, Malwa and Sutlej-Ganga plains, but the mills are generally located in the cities.
If these are moved back towards the villages and infrastructure made to carry export items straight to the ports, then export headquarters can be kept in the cities, but workers need not move to the cities to work. Similarly, if infrastructure connects the hinterlands, especially in the peninsula, then stone processing factories can be located next to mines and quarries and the processed materials can be moved directly to the cities of use or ports of export instead of having to bring them to cities.
What are given above are just suggestions which the government officers might study in detail to attempt to reorient our supply chain. Migrants are often not captured in the BPL lists or electoral lists, thereby making them vulnerable to, even in the best of times, a lack of subsidised food and electoral representation. This pandemic has given us an opportunity to pause and rethink. There is no reason why we should not take this opportunity.
---
*M.Sc energy, trade and finance, City University, London; procurement, logistics and human resource supervisor and consultant

Comments

Unknown said…
Nicely written and explained.Future write up awaited.

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization

Majoritarian silence helping Hindutva forces 'handover' national resources to corporates

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The majority of Indian citizens are witnessing the persecution and everyday violence against their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities. The growing assaults on reason, science, secularism, Indian democracy and constitution are going to be landmarks in Indian history of diminishing democracy and citizenship rights. It is clear that Hindutva ideology is directly promoting sectarian politics of hate which is dangerous for the unity and integrity of India, peace and prosperity of Indians. The majoritarian silence helps in empowering Hindutva and their electoral dividends. From witnessing the persecution in the sidelines to the active participation and cheering loud or silence accelerates violence against our neighbours and our fellow citizens. How and why do majority of Indians stay silent and contribute to the persecution of their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities? The question baffles me as an Indian because I have gr

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in