Civil society pushes for state-level migration policies; develops framework

MoUs between states, effective intervention by the Centre recommended

54-Migrant-labourers Migrant labourers leaving Delhi | Sanjay Ahlawat

In the backdrop of the chaos that ensued regarding movement of migrant workers back home during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, a group of civil society organisations have held deliberations to come out with a policy framework on inter-state migration of workers that they are sharing with all the states and pushing for formulation of migration policies by each state.

One of the major recommendations in the policy framework is on signing of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between states, so that issues related to migrant workers could be resolved accordingly without any confusion or chaos.

Also, there is focus on increased intervention and facilitation by the Centre as several of the issues related to migration are under Union government ambit. The policy framework also calls for better implementation and improvisation of the Inter-State Migration of Workmen (ISMW) Act, 1979, to make it effective in the post-COVID-19 context.

The policy framework has been jointly developed by Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), New Delhi; Samarthan, Bhopal; Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), Bhubaneshwar; Unnati, Ahmedabad; Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra (SSK), Lucknow and Martha Farrell Foundation, New Delhi, after intense deliberations with policy makers, academic institutions, international organisations, national andlocal voluntary organisations.

“We are sharing the policy framework with all the states and wherever possible, we will be pushing for urgent formulation of state-level policies,” Yogesh Kumar of Samarthan, Bhopal, told THE WEEK.

He said that each state will have to develop policies keeping in mind that they are both sources and destinations of migrant workers. “So, there would be some joint actions and some state specific actions. Also the Centre will have to play a more proactive role,” Kumar said.

He said that the policy framework was developed in view of the chaos that erupted during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The migrant workers who returned to their native states said that they would not have returned home if their contractor, owner or employer at the workplace took care of their living and food expenses during the lockdown. As there was no safety net for the workers, an atmosphere of chaos ensued, and they started returning home. But their problems did not ease even after returning home. Despite the system of inter-state law in India, the workers are facing mismanagement and chaos due to the Covid-19 situation and this is where the need of inter-state agreements and state policies are required, Kumar added.

Some of the key recommendations in the policy framework are as follows:

Actions by Union government

  • Creation of a localised central platform for registration at the panchayat level

  • Make all welfare schemes inter-operable

  • Digitalise compliance to be conducted by contractors

  • Streamline recruitment channels to regulate labour trafficking

  • Legislative amendment of ISMW Act 1979

Common actions by source and destination states

  • Creating a State Migration Policy

  • Implementation of provisions of ISMW Act 1979

  • Following the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh MoU of 2012, Jharkhand-BRO Agreement, 2020 as model agreements between states on migration issues

  • Conduct macro-level data mapping including nature and scale of migration cycles

  • Setting up Migrant Support Resource Centres (MSRCs) in high migrant density districts

  • Legal counselling services dedicated to migrant workers

Additional actions by source states

  • Providing access to employment opportunities

  • Skill development and employment Opportunities

  • Establish skill-certification programmes

Additional actions by destination states

  • Facilitate workers’ housing needs

  • Providing education for migrant workers’ children in vernacular languages

  • Establish Mental Health Centres for migrants

  • Shelter homes and crèches, medical dispensaries dedicated to women-centric needs

  • Community policing