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Vulnerable Sections

Supreme Court angry on Government for delay in Migrant Workers’ Database

Supreme Court angry on Government for delay in Migrant Workers’ Database


  • GS 2 || Governance & Social Justice || Vulnerable Sections || Unorganized Sector Workers

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court questioned the delay in getting the national database of unorganized workers up and running as it reserved its judgment in a suo motu matter regarding assistance to be provided to migrant workers in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19.


  • The issue of lack of data on migrants was raised when the Government of India was caught for its unawareness of not having data of the stranded workers or the number of migrants that died while traveling back home during the lockdown.
  • The Supreme Court of India(SC) has directed the Central Government and the State Governments to complete the registration process of unorganized workers so that they can avail the welfare benefits given under various government schemes.

What is migration?

  • Migration is the movement of people away from their usual place of residence, across either internal (within-country) or international (across countries) borders.
  • As per the Census 2011, India had 45.6 crore migrants in 2011 (38% of the population) compared to 31.5 crore migrants in 2001 (31% of the population).
  • Between 2001 and 2011, while the population grew by 18%, the number of migrants increased by 45%.
  • In 2011, 99% of total migration was internal and immigrants (international migrants) comprised 1%.

Reasons behind Internal Migration

  • Unemployment- An increasing number of people do not find sufficient
  • economic opportunities in rural areas and move instead to towns and cities.
  • Marriage: It is a common driver of internal migration in India, especially among women.
  • Pull-factor from cities: Due to better employment opportunities, livelihood facilities, etc cities of Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata are the largest destinations for internal migrants in India.

Provisions Related to Migrant Workers

  • Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act of 1979
    • Those establishments that hired interstate migrants, as well as all contractors that recruited these employees, were required to register under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act of 1979.
  • Section 112-Registration of unorganized workers, gig employees, and platform workers was proposed by Section 112 of the Code of Social Security, 2020.
  • Section 21 of the Code on Occupational Health, Safety, and Working Conditions allows for the creation of a Lmigrant worker database to aid in effective targeting, skill mapping, and utilization of government programs.

SC’s Observations

  • Keeping Record of Migrant Workers:
    • It has urged states and union territories to preserve a record of returning migrant laborers, including details about their talents, previous employers, and so on so that the administration can provide them with the required assistance.
  • National Database for the Common Good
    • For all organized workers in different states, there should be a single national database.
    • The Ministry of Labour and Employment’s initiative to create a National Database for Unorganized Workers should be realized with state collaboration and coordination.
    • It may be used for registration for the States and the Center to extend various programs.
  • Mechanism for Supervision
    • A proper mechanism should be in place to monitor and supervise whether the benefits of welfare schemes reach the intended beneficiaries, which could range from grassroots levels to higher authorities with names and addresses of recipients.
  • Ration for Stranded Workers
    • Under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat Program or any other scheme determined fit by the Centre and the states, the dry ration should be distributed to stranded migrant workers across the country.

National Migrant Workers Database

  • The plan aims to get data from existing databases of government schemes such as MGNREGA, and the one nation-one ratio
  • n card to create a unique registration of migrant workers.
  • Details of those working in unorganized sectors not covered by such schemes are likely to be added separately.
  • The database is to be created based on the twelve-digit Aadhaar number. The number will act a social security coverage to the migrants.
  • All the unorganized workers will also be included separately in the database to help them get employment.
  • The database will help to track the movement of the migrants.
  • It will help the origin state and destination state to plan welfare measures including social security measures.

Recent initiatives taken by the government for the welfare of migrant workers

  • Ration Card Interoperability: The One Nation-One Ration Card (ONORC) allows recipients from one state to get their rations in other states where the ration card was initially issued.
  • Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan (GKRA): This initiative gives chances for returnee migrant workers and rural citizens who have returned to their home states as a result of the Covid-19-induced shutdown.
  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has developed the ‘Atmanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM)’ platform to assist skilled workers in finding long-term employment prospects.
  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has created an online dashboard known as the National Migrant Information System (NMIS).
    • It would keep a central database of migrant workers and aid in rapid inter-state communication to make it easier for migrant employees to return to their homes.
  • Atma Nirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rozgar Abhiyan
    • The scheme aims to foster local entrepreneurship and form partnerships with industrial associations to offer jobs for the 1.25 million migrant workers who lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
    • The state government has previously mapped the workers’ skills so that they can be hired based on their qualifications.
    • The Uttar Pradesh government has announced a migrant commission that will map the talents of workers who have returned to the state and provide data to job exchanges
  • Mahajobs- Maharashtra
    • Maharashtra Government has launched a portal named ‘Mahajobs’for job seekers and employers, owing to the economic situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Draft policy by NITI Aayog

  • The Niti Aayog, on the request of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, has prepared an umbrella policy document for migrant labourers, including informal sector workers.
  • The draft policy makes significant strides in providing a perspective on recognizing the magnitude and role of migrant workers, their problems and vulnerabilities, and the role and responsibilities of various stakeholders in addressing these.
  • It states that a sound policy must be viewed from a “human rights, property rights, economic, social development, and foreign policy lens”.

The importance of data

  • The draft calls for a central database to help employers “fill the gap between demand and supply” and ensures “maximum benefit of social welfare schemes”.
  • It asks the Ministries and the Census office to be consistent with the definitions of migrants and subpopulations, capture seasonal and circular migrants, and incorporate migrant-specific variables in existing surveys.
  • Both documents see limited merit in Census data that comes only once a decade.
  • It asked the National Sample Survey Office to include questions related to migration in the periodic labour force survey and to carry out a separate survey on migration.


  • Failure to address the root causes of labour migration
    • Uneven development, according to the National Commission for Rural Labor, was the primary cause of labour movement in 1991.
    • Disparities in development and inequities have widened dramatically during the previous three decades, necessitating drastic measures.
  • Social security denial
    • social security of migrants and informal workers is ignored.
    • In international accords to which India is a signatory, social security is recognized as a universal human right, and it is given appropriate prominence in the Constitution.
    • TheNational Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) showed in 2006 that providing a minimum level of universal social security was financially and administratively feasible.
    • The Commission also recommended a universal registration system and issuance of smart social security cards, but its recommendations have unfortunately remained a dead letter.
  • Migrants are being excluded by city administrations
    • While the report properly identifies local governments’ exclusion of migrants from fundamental entitlements, it fails to address the core reason for the imbalanced urban development approach.
    • National and global capital, as well as the urban middle classes, have benefited from the urban strategy, while the poor, notably migrants, have been marginalized.


  • The Supreme Court has stated that the migrants be treated humanely, including by providing them with enough food, water, beds, and supplies as well as psychosocial counseling in shelters that are run by volunteers and not security forces.
  • Generating employment and income: creating a niche tourism circuit that promotes sustainable mountain tourism, empowering local entrepreneurs through adequate finance and know-how, Value chain development for enhancing livelihoods of local people.
  • Capacity building of local bodies keeping in mind effects of Climate Change.
    • Capacity Building is also required in the use of Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing Technologies for efficient monitoring and implementation of various programs and integrated hazard management.
  • Establishing skill development centers and re-looking at the existing education and the healthcare systems in hills
  • Inviting industries to the mountains that don’t pollute the fragile ecosystem, promoting efficiency in irrigation and promoting horticulture, Beekeeping, agroforestry, and organic farming for additional income.

Mains model question

  • Explain the structure and trend of migration in India. Highlight the issues faced by migrants workers along with discussing some potential solutions that can be provided by the center and state governments.