Skip to main content

Restarting economy? Data lag on migrant workers 'hindering' market stakeholders

By Balwant Singh Mehta, Arjun Kumar*
The reverse movement of thousands of migrants is an ongoing challenge before the government- 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; eastern India being the labour supply hub in the country.
A large number of migrants have already reached to their villages, and millions of others who are currently in the shelter homes and many who decided to stay back in cities are desperately waiting for the end of lockdown period to move their native places.
This time many labourers will not come back due to shock and uncertainty, which means that most of small and medium size companies/factories and other businesses may face the heat once the lockdown period is over.
There would be a shortage of labour or contract skilled workers and households also find tough to run their daily work without the helpers/drivers/maids etc. The production and profits of small/medium size factories or businesses will suffer due to shortage of labourers and other contract skilled workers.
Because the scale of their production/business would get reduce and their wage bill will also rise due to higher payment to retain the limited available labour force. Shortage of workers poses challenge to restart the economy.

Varying estimates

There are several estimates floating around about the number of migrants who are leaving from the destination (mostly urban places) due to absence of any updated information. Some estimates are:
(i) The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), Employment & Unemployment and Migration Particulars (64th) Round estimates showed that migrant workers were 32 million in 2007-08.
(ii) According to the Census of India, inter-state migrants’ 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).
(iii) 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.
(iv) 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 total migration. Further, the survey suggested around 9 million workers migrate across states annually.
(v) 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 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Other estimates after including the short-term circular migrants shows that there are about 140 million inter-state migrants’ workers in India in 2020. This includes nearly 60 million short-term circular migrants in 2020, which are left out from census and other surveys.

Recent official figures

The above estimates are only indicative, the visible reports of current registration by migrants to return home clearly reflects their desperation. About two million have registered in UP (one million returned as well), over 600,000 in Jharkhand, and about 1 million in Bihar for coming home. On the other hand, 2 million migrants registered to go home from Gujarat, 644,000 from Punjab, 225,000 from Telangana and over 146,000 from Haryana.
The registered data reveal 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 for return to home. As of May 17, 2020, more than 15 lakh migrants have already been transported by the Railways to their home states and almost 1,150 Shramik Special trains have been operationalised.
Production and profits of small/medium size factories or businesses will suffer due to shortage of labourers and other contract skilled workers
The Prime Minister announced a special economic and comprehensive package of Rs 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 the above and some of the latest other announcements pertaining to migrant workers are:
  • Free food grains supply to migrants for 2 months- 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.
  • Allocation of an additional Rs 40,000 crore under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which will help generate nearly 300 crore person days’ work 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 
  • Scheme for Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) for migrant workers and urban poor to be launched 
  • National Migrant Information System (NMIS) - a central online repository on migrant workers is being developed by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to facilitate their seamless movement across States 
  • 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 
  • PM CARES Fund Trust allocates Rs. 1000 Crores for relief measures for migrants 
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.

Way forward

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. So that appropriate policy measures can be taken for the welfare of migrants in the time of pandemic like the current one.
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.
While the Census is held decennially, the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) 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 out-migration was held in 2007–08, and thereby necessitating restarting these surveys.
The Five-year Vision 2019-24 for the National Statistical System has been published by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI). The NITI Aayog on its part has proposed a National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP). These efforts demonstrate a growing acknowledgement of the need to use of digital technology, which would democratise the access to holistic and coherent public government data on a real-time basis.
Thus, going forward, it appears that the era of Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain and gig economy would require extensive utilization of ICT. This would enable quick and smooth harnessing of new sources of data including payroll data, night lights data, GIS data, and big data generated using mobile communications, social media interactions, and digitally-enabled transactions. Importance and due integration of the migrant workers statistics has to be ensured in all future exercises.
Hence, it is an opportune time for a comprehensive plan to address the data lags pertaining to the important and dynamic migrant workers statistics and urgently engage in evidence informed decision making. 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.
---
*Balwant Singh Mehta is fellow at Institute for Human Development (IHD) and co-founder & visiting senior fellow at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi. Arjun Kumar is Director, IMPRI and China-India Visiting Scholar Fellow, Ashoka University

Comments

Aditya said…
Nice blog and good information shared here.

TRENDING

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

#StandWithStan: It's about Constitution, democracy and freedom of expression

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is more than three weeks now: On the night of October 8, 2020, the 83-year-old Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy was taken into custody by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) from his residence in Ranchi to an undisclosed destination. According to his colleagues, the NIA did not serve a warrant on Fr. Stan and that their behaviour was absolutely arrogant and rude.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".