Skip to main content

Lockdown effect: Surat's 10 lakh migrant workers 'lose' Rs 9,000 per month each

By Gagan Bihari Sahu*, Biswaroop Das** 
A large section of workers in Indian cities working in marginal occupations and unregulated jobs come from households that struggle to survive on weak economic and meagre resource bases across its villages and small towns in the countryside. These workers in cities and urban peripheries put efforts to earn money for enhancement of the economic status of families back home through remittances.
Trying to find a grip over a range of unprotected segments and job types, they continue to struggle and negotiate with changing employment scenarios and wage conditions in the informal as well as formal sectors of urban labour markets. While a section remains ‘under’ or even unemployed, a large majority attempts to sustain their livelihood through a variety of ‘informal’ jobs and self-employment.
The current nation-wide lockdown has been a major cause of job destruction in urban pockets affecting these workers badly. The production is standstill, machines are quiet and markets are closed. In spite of government’s appeal, many employers have either removed their workers, deducted salary or simply closed doors.
The loss of jobs has made workers more and more insecure and compelled to leave for their native homes. This has led to a wide range of social and economic insecurities among them; unleashed uncertainties associated with their survival and sustenance in job markets, and eroded their capacity to negotiate with the present crisis.
The lockdown has affected nearly all segments of migrant workers irrespective of their differential locations in several economic sub-sectors. Jobs in small scale production units are characterised by low regularity in employment, salary or piece-rate mode of payment and a near absence of social security measures.
Nearly 80% of such workers are employed on ad-hoc and temporary basis with the owners able to displace them at will any time. Workers in construction sector are mostly recruited by contractors and middlemen and wages paid in terms of contractual and quasi-contractual modes. With a phenomenal rise in population and intensive internationalization of the national economies, cities are witnessing a higher growth of a wide range of lower and middle order services.
Scales of such enterprises often range from small to tiny under the category of self-employed that also includes jobs in very ‘low’ level production, processing and servicing units. Lower level sales, too, emerge as an important category among such micro enterprises characterised by being ‘irregular on a regular basis’ remaining spread across cities on a daily basis.
Besides, hundreds of unskilled and semi-skilled workers wait at several junctions in cities on a daily basis negotiating jobs and wages that may or may not come their way. All these groups together make a block of self-employed and hired wage labourers who while living under wretched conditions earn miserably. Economy affects them the hardest when sectors face recession or heavy market fluctuations.
The vulnerability associated with these migrant workers can be well speculated through micro level data available from our previous studies. A study on migrant workers from Odisha, Uttar Paresh, Bihar and Rajasthan in the year 2011-12 suggests that the average annual income of such workers was Rs 76,545 in Surat, an industrial hub in the state of Gujarat.
Hailing from Odisha, UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, migrants' households received 52.9% to 61.7% of their income through remittances
These workers were working in powerlooms, embroidery, dyeing and printing units, shops selling textile products, diamond polishing, construction and allied, hardware/sanitary shop and lower level services. 12.9% among them earned more than Rs 1 lakh, 30% between Rs 75,001 and Rs 100,000, 47.1% earned between Rs 50,001 and Rs.75,000 and about 10% earned about Rs.50,000 per annum.
If we assume a conservative rise in their income by 5% per annum, a migrant worker in the city of Surat will have an average annual income of Rs 1,07,163 in 2019-20. It implies that a migrant worker is going to lose an absolute amount of Rs 8,930 income in a month. Depending upon the duration of lockdown, the extent of their income loss can be estimated accordingly.
During the same period, the average size of remittance per worker during 2011-12 was Rs 27,029, which was around Rs 2252 per month. It shows that the share of remittance to total income was around 35.3%. If we assume a similar 5% rise in remittances, migrants’ families back home are likely to have Rs 3,153 less income per month. Across states, migrants’ households received around 52.9% to 61.7% of their income through remittances.
This suggests that remittances are a prime source of migrants’ native household income. A larger share of these remittances was spent towards consumption and medical exigencies. Surat approximately has around 10 lakh of migrant workers.
If we apply this uniform size of remittance, the inflow of money from Surat to rural areas will have declined by Rs 315 crore per month. Thus, the joblessness due to COVID-19 will have larger implications for households adopting migration as their livelihood strategy.
How these migrants and their families are going to sustain their livelihood is a big question. Their coping strategies are likely to vary across regions, extent of assets, government subsidies and incentives, skill types, caste locations and social networks. Studies also suggest that inter-state migration is now taking place more from among other backward castes (OBCs) as well as middle and upper caste groups.
Many among them are unlikely to participate in wage works in their native villages. A majority is likely to meet their needs through borrowings and especially from informal credit market as they hardly have access to banks and formal institutions. There is every possibility that many of them will fall into interlocked credit market where the lenders will have enough opportunity to exploit the borrowers.
As many among the migrants remain stuck well below the poverty line and continue to be labelled as the ‘working poor’, provision of direct benefit in terms of a fair amount of cash and supports to farm and allied economy may emerge a better strategy to deal the present crisis.
Since most of them have no income from multiple sources, their purchasing power is going to reduce drastically. This, in turn, will have a negative impact on the economy in terms of lack of demand. The production cycle will be distorted and not much employment generation will take place. The present scenario of lockdown, hopefully even for a brief period, will have long term implications on the economy and the workers’ lives.
Their consumption will fall, health deteriorate, priorities changed and women and girl child suffer more than the rest. A large section of these groups will slide down faster than being able to cope with this disaster and move towards abysmal depths of poverty and destitution. One half of the country will have work but no labour and the other will have labour but no work.
It is therefore pertinent to understand the complexities of workers’ economic deprivation and factors that may disable them to oil the machines once again and enliven the city streets. Context specific micro programmes and policies will help more than policies which are broad and linear.
---
*Associate professor, Centre for Social Studies, Surat; **visiting professor, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, formerly with Centre for Social Studies, Surat 

Comments

TRENDING

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".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p