Some workers return

by May 11, 2020 0 comments

Web portals by Punjab and Haryana Governments, listing job and project sites, are helping reverse the migrant exodus

Amid the doom and gloom of reverse migration and heart-breaking stories of the long march home, there has been some hope. As migrant workers head back to their villages, about 1.09 lakh from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have applied on a Haryana government web portal to return to the State to work at plants and units located in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Panipat, Sonipat, Jhajjar, Yamunanagar and Rewari. And encouraged by the response, the Haryana Government is even planning to make arrangements to bring them back. Even neighbouring Punjab has taken the lead in registering the migrants residing within the State on a portal, reaching out to them and facilitating their return to their home States should they want to or moving them to job sites should they decide to stay back. It is true that the migrants moving back home are just making the lesser hopeless choice. Having lost their jobs, daily wages and their shacks overnight, they chose to go back home and rely on the subsistence economy there. They hoped to get by with the Government increasing rations and some government project work at the local level. But at least they would be safe from the “big city” virus, not have to stay at the cramped encampments or be looked at with suspicion as virus carriers. In fact, Haryana’s relatively lower Coronavirus numbers are a major factor in the workers seeking to return. Till Friday, Haryana had 647 positive cases, including 14 Italian nationals, and eight deaths. This has also helped the State open up businesses faster. In fact, some migrants had already left the State before the lockdown and not having found suitable rehabilitation or job opportunities back home are now keen to return. Besides, some of the returnees, because they have moved across States hit by the virus, have not been able to resume their lives at their homes as they have been quarantined and are being monitored to see if they were asymptomatic carriers. The long clearances are costing them important man days at work. 

Both Punjab and Haryana have launched the migrant web portal soon enough, and the responses there are reason enough why there should be inter-state coordination on mounting a national migrant database, along with labourers’ location, health status and skill sets. This would not only help them find job sites but also coordinate their journey back home should they so desire. As India opens up in phases post-lockdown 3, workforce coordination would have to rely heavily on data analytics and digital platforms that should be adopted by both the Centre and State governments. Till May 8, while 1.46 lakh labourers had applied to return to Haryana, 7.95 lakh wanted to leave. Three-fourths of those who want to come back (74.5 per cent) are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, while 82.55 per cent of those seeking to leave belong to the two states. So corresponding States should also synergise mapping. Besides, State Governments should also plan makeshift shelters at some work sites and hold counselling sessions for labourers before they make a rash decision. India needs its inter-city migrants to rebuild the economy, which is suffering a chronic shortage of labour, but it needs to make them feel valued.

(Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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