Skip to main content

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar* 

India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.
Although the draft has reference to architecture of social protection, there is much to be desired from a human rights and social justice perspective. In this context, the Migrant Assistance and Information Network (MAIN), which is working with distress migrants across 14 states of India, conducted a Policy Dialogue on “India’s Draft Migration Policy” on March 19, 2021. A galaxy of policy experts from India and abroad explored the contours of the draft migration policy and suggested the needed key elements for the policy on migration in the Indian context.
Dr Partha Mukhopadhyay, Former Chair, Working Group on Migration, Government of India and Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi, said “Migration is not about migrants alone though they are obviously the visible aspect of migration, as it was evident during the COVID”. Migrant is embedded both in the source and destination states. In India, migrants do not always move with family, which results in a phenomenon called “left-behind” that has been studied extensively in China, but not given much attention in India. The children left behind in villages lose out in education, when one of either of the parents migrate to the city.
Early childhood education is an important part in determining one’s life’s outcome. The thrust of the draft migration policy is to facilitate migration, which is a welcome move, but if that benefit is then counterbalanced by an effect which is relatively negative, then the overall welfare impact on the society over time, not just only in this generation, but also next generation then it becomes problematic. Hence, it is important to think beyond migrants when we discuss migration policy.
Dr Mukhopadhyay gave an example of this aspect quoting Census data, which often records women moving along with families for reasons of marriage, giving the impression that women are not part of the workforce. However, when we triangulate it with other data, especially the National Sample Survey ( NSS), it is found that women’s workforce participation is higher than that of women who have not migrated, which means women who are recorded as migrating for non-work purpose are actually working in the destinations. 
“Migration is an activity, and not an act, which is a continuous process of movement from the village to city and this gives rise to multi locational households, providing a certain degree of insurance against uncertain agricultural outcomes”, he said.
Domicile restrictions for employment are increasingly brought out by states, not only in the public sector, but also in private sector. Although courts have intervened, many states, including Haryana for instance, recently have brought such laws. Equality in legal protection for everyone is required to make migrant to be at par with everyone. This is something to worry about migration policy. 
He further added, if the migration policy is about special favours for migrants, then it creates a certain degree of resentment among the people who are locals. The thrust of the policies should ensure that there should be no discrimination against the migrants. There are also concerns on the lack of awareness among migrants about the various schemes and social protection that are available for them.
Dr Vibhuti Patel, former professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai said, the question of intersectionality is important while we discuss migration. Wherever women go, they work. Recognition and representation of women is critical in migrant discourse. Dr Patel raised the concern of sexual harassment of women migrant workers. 
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 92 per cent of women workers in India are in informal sector, devoid of any platform for grievance reddressal. There are no support mechanism for migrant women workers, especially absence creches and childcare facility. Labour laws have been abandoned by many states. Overall precarity in the labour market resulting from the intersectionality of class, caste, religion, language, etc., imposed over each other need to be addressed.
Speaking on the labour codes, Dr Patel said that there are gross violations of human rights in the work place and the whole course of reproductive discourse is not even mentioned in any of the code. Dedicated helpline for migrant workers which can address all issues of migrants, including wage theft, social protection, etc. It is also important to ensure the reproductive rights of women too.
Registration of women as migrant workers is a must so that they get access to schemes and programmes, etc. Implementation of Equal Remuneration Act 1976 and skill upgradation are important. Big data for working class is required. every flagship programme of government minimum 30 per cent of quota should be for women in the workforce. Invisibility of women in migration discourse is an important concern.
Dr Priya Deshingkar, Professor of Migration and Development, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, UK, said, though the Draft Policy is not available for public, it is the time to intervene to influence how the policy gets shaped up. The draft demonstrates political will and clearly states the government’s intent to recognise the economic contribution of labour migrants and support them. It highlights the importance of collective action to improve bargaining power of workers.
Further, it has several radical steps such as a unifying a national policy, migration management bodies in sending and receiving states, establishing a unit within the ministry of labour and employment to foster convergence among different line departments.
Migrants require a lot of information regarding where they should go, remittances, possibilities of employment, cheap accommodation
Dr Deshingkar said, the remit of the policy is broad, seeking to bring even the most marginalised groups such as street vendors, sex workers, etc. under its umbrella. However, a more explicit mention of important, but less visible categories of work such as domestic work and home-based work, which are particularly important for women, is needed. Home-based work means the kind of work done by migrant workers in some type of home-setting, informal establishment, may be part of manufacturing chain. These workers tend to be invisible.
She added, it is too easy for them to fall through the gaps as they are not adequately covered by protective law. For example, India has still not ratified the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers. She further said, we really need a more innovative approach to improve the effectiveness and coverage of existing laws and this can be achieved through consultation with stakeholders who are closer to migrants and work with them directly to pinpoint precise processes of exclusion.
Dr Deshingkar said that it is important to understand the political economy of migrant labour recruitment, placement and employment in key industries, and why there is a vested interest in keeping migrant workers away from the purview of law. The draft policy begins by stating that migrant policy should be recognised, but it is not reflected in the section of tribal migration. Further, cases of extreme exploitation are used as justification to stop all tribal migration, which are against the broader experience.
There is a need to differentiate between instances of extreme exploitation and find ways of mitigating that rather than policing migration and viewing in in negative terms. With regard to the setting up of database of migrant workers, the requirement of identity proof and enrolling through a formal process with paper work and all is likely to run into the problem of exclusion. The draft policy is a major step in the right direction, but the gaps need to be addressed.
Dr Yogesh Kumar, Executive Director, Samarthan-Centre for Development Support, Bhopal, said, as equal citizens, the rights, entitlements and dignity of migrant workers have to be protected. The invisible constituency, which is so productive in work has to be considered as equal participants in the economy. Local governments were the only government closer to the people closer to the people during the lockdown.
Local leadership emerged through the crisis, by proving a host of critical services, right from ration, medical facilities, and quarantine facilities. Hence, it is important to recognize the role of local governments. The three tier structure provided by the Constitution under the 73rd and 74th amendments – rural, block and district panchayat levels -- provides a comprehensive legal framework for the migrants in the destination and source. 
Similarly, in the case of the urban areas, municipalities, corporations and nagar panchayats provide another legal entity as local government. Hence, these connections have to be seen when we discuss migrants in source and destination states. These two local governments have to talk to each other to see how migrants are protected.
Dr Kumar said there should be National Rural Migrants’ Inventory (NARMI) by Gram Panchayats at source and by the Municipalities at destination. Comprehensive migrant-centric district planning by the working together of Gram Panchayats and urban local bodies is required to enhance employment opportunities. District centres have poor infrastructure and it would be difficult to convert them into migrant inventory level. It has to be much simpler where the incentives have to be there for the migrants to register, whether they are migrating alone or with families.
He further said, one nation and one ration is only possible when we have a database at the panchayat and municipal level of all migrants who are moving from place to place. The real-time data of migrants is required only when large number of seasonal migrants exist. The registration should not be coerced. It should be incentive based. There should be a national flagship programme for establishing migrant resource centres (MRCs).
Migrants require a lot of information and support regarding where they should go, safe migration, remittances, possibilities of employment, cheap accommodation in destination, etc. Skill development and certification of existing skills from the perspective of migrants are required. There also is the need for demystifying the definition of skill. Migrants’ dignity and wage employment possibility need to be looked at the migration policy.
The Policy Dialogue was moderated by Dr Frazer Mascarenhas, Former Principal of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and Former Member, Working Group for Undergraduate Education of the National Knowledge Commission, and the Steering Committee for Higher and Technical Education of the 12th Plan of the Planning Commission, Government of India. Participants from across the world representing policy research and academic institutions, government, civil society organisations, students, etc. attended the programme.
---
*Manager, Monitoring & Evaluation, and Strategic Knowledge Management- CDO, Jesuit Conference of India/South Asia

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