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Why in the news?
National policy on migrant workers by NITI Aayog
- Spurred by the exodus of 10 million migrants (govt. estimates) from big cities during the Covid-19 lockdown,
- NITI Aayog, along with a working subgroup of officials and members of civil society, has prepared a draft national migrant labour policy.
Who are migrants?
- Migration is described as the movement of people away from their usual residence through national (internal) or international (cross-national) borders.
- The 2011 Census provided the most recent government data on migration. According to the 2011 Census, India had 45.6 million migrants (38 percent of the population), up from 31.5 million migrants in 2001. (31 percent of the population).
Problems of Migrants:
- Official Invisibility: Official data almost completely ignores the migrant workers. Because of this, they were unable to participate in even the most basic social security programs provided by the government.
- No negotiating power: The population of migrant workers is extremely diverse and disaggregated. They lack agency and, as a result, no collective bargaining power. As a result, they are vulnerable to exploitation.
- Political Exclusion: Political parties do not always consider or value them as a political constituency, and their interests are not always addressed.
- Exclusion from welfare and developmental programs: The majority of welfare programs are related to the migrants’ place of origin. When they move to another place, they lose these advantages.
- No proper accommodation: They don’t get proper accommodation at any place where they work
- Health issues: Kids of migrant workers and women face many health issues, women don’t get proper sanitation and mostly migrant kids are mal-nutrient.
- No proper education: One of the most important issue that is faced by the children of migrant worker is no proper education is available for them
About the draft:
- Political inclusion: The draft considers that political inclusion is essential for their access to health services, basic entitlements, food security, education and other needs.
- Social security: There are also administrative suggestions like the setting up of a special migration unit in migration unit in the ministry of labour at the Centre and in the states, inter-state migration management bodies in important migration corridors, portability of social security programmes across states, introduction of skill mapping schemes and the setting up of a national helpline for psycho-social assistance.
- Fragmented labour market: The draft notes that a fragmented labour market obscures supply chains and relationships between business owners and workers. It also says that “the existing gap in the unionisation of migrant workers is also an important reason for the precarious nature of their employment.”
- Trade unions in the conventional sense many not be possible among migrant workers. But their conditions are worse than those of even unorganised workers.
Issues with existing law:
- The 2017 report argued that specific protection legislation for migrant workers was unnecessary.
- The report discussed the limitations of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act, 1979, which was designed to protect labourers, from exploitation by contractors by safeguarding their right to non-discriminatory wages, travel and displacement allowances, and suitable working conditions.
- However, this law — which was modeled on a 1975 Odisha law —covered only labourers migrating through a contractor, and left out independent migrants.
- The 2017 report questioned this approach, given the size of the country’s unorganised sector.
- It called for a comprehensive law for these workers, which would form the legal basis for an architecture of social protection.
- The NITI Aayog’s policy draft mentions that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should amend the 1979 Act for “effective utilisation to protect migrants”.
The nuts and bolts of governance:
- The NITI draft lays down institutional mechanisms to coordinate between Ministries, states, and local departments to implement programmes for migrants.
- It identifies the Ministry of Labour and Employment as the nodal Ministry for implementation of policies, and asks it to create a special unit to help converge the activities of other Ministries.
- This unit would manage migration resource centres in high migration zones, a national labour helpline, links of worker households to government schemes, and inter-state migration management bodies.
- Migration focal points should be created in various Ministries, the draft suggests.
- On the inter-state migration management bodies, it says that labour departments of source and destination states along major migration corridors, should work together through the migrant worker cells.
- Labour officers from source states can be deputed to destinations – e.g., Bihar’s experiment to have a joint labour commissioner at Bihar Bhavan in New Delhi.
Ways to stem migration:
- Even as it underlines the key role of migration in development, the draft recommends steps to stem migration; this is an important difference with the 2017 report.
- The draft asks source states to raise minimum wages to “bring major shifts in local livelihood of tribals (that) may result in stemming migration to some extent”.
- The absence of community building organisations (CBO) and administrative staff in the source states has hindered access to development programmes, pushing tribals towards migration.
- Policies should “promote the role of panchayats to aid migrant workers” and integrate urban and rural policies to improve the conditions of migration.
The importance of data:
- Gap between demand and supply: The draft calls for a central database to help employers fill the gap between demand and supply and ensure 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.
- The 2017 report called on the Registrar General of India to release migration data no more than a year after the initial tabulation, and to include sub-district level, village level, and caste data. It also asked the National Sample Survey Office to include questions related to migration in the periodic labor force survey, and to carry out a separate survey on migration.
- The policy draft describes a lack of administrative capacity to handle issues of exploitation.
- State labour departments have little engagement with migration issues, and are in “halting human trafficking mode”.
- “The local administration, given the usual constraints of manpower, is not in a position to monitor (This) has become the breeding ground for middlemen to thrive on the situation and entrap migrants.”
- The draft points to the legal support and registrations tracking potential exploitation in Nashik and certain blocks in Odisha;
- It also flags the poor supervision of migration trends by anti-trafficking units in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Recommendations of National Policy on Migrant Workers:
- The Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, and Housing & Urban Affairs need to use Tribal Affairs migration data to help create migration resource centres in high migration zones.
- The Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship needs to focus on skill-building at these centres.
- The Ministry of Education should take measures under the Right to Education Act to mainstream migrant children’s education, to map migrant children, and to provide local-language teachers in migrant destinations.
- The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should address issues of night shelters, short-stay homes, and seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
- The National Legal Services authority (NALSA) and Ministry of Labour should set up grievance handling cells and fast track legal responses for trafficking, minimum wage violations, and workplace abuses and accidents for migrant workers.
- Workers must have agency, politicization, unionization, and mobilization in order for a rights-based approach to welfare and social security to succeed, since workers have pushed parties and governments to see welfare as an important component of economic growth in the past.
- The government has taken steps to ensure that welfare programs, especially access to the public distribution system, are portable across state lines. On that front, something needs to be done.
- The draft from the NITI Aayog is a call to rethink labor-capital ties while incorporating migrant workers into the formal workforce. This is needed for a humane society and a competitive economy to emerge.
- State like Maharashtra introduced other state language in the syllabus of easy understanding and easy learning especially of the migrant students, Odisha arranged hostel and boarding school for the children of migrant workers these are the some steps that are by states and other state can also take such and more initiatives for the betterment of the migrant workers
Mains oriented question:
Write about the issue related with internal migration in India, why there was a need of National policy on migrant workers? (200 words)