Migration Centric Development | 28 Dec 2022

This editorial is based on “A retelling of the Indian migrant worker’s plight” which was published in The Hindu on 28/12/2022. It talks about the issues faced by Migrants and the requirement of tangible and comprehensive migration policy.

For Prelims: International Organization of Migration (IOM), UN State of the World Population report, Covid-19 pandemic, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Unorganised workers, National Food Security Act List.

For Mains: Positive Effects of Domestic Migration in India, Challenges Associated with Domestic Migration in India, Sustainable Development Goals and Migrants.

According to the International Organization of Migration (IOM)’s World Migration Report 2022, there were 281 million international migrants globally in 2020, with nearly two-thirds being labour migrants.

Population pressure on cities has increased with the development of the manufacturing and service sectors. According to the “World Cities Report 2022, India's urban population to stand at 675 million by 2035. A result of urbanisation and the growth of cities in India is a significant strain on basic infrastructure and services, particularly housing and sanitation. Migrant workers suffer most from the lack of access to these basic needs.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further aggravated the poor housing conditions of the urban poor/ migrant workers. So, it's high time India started addressing the issues facing migrants in a comprehensive manner and worked towards improving their living conditions.

What are the Positive Effects of Domestic Migration in India?

  • Diversifying Labour Markets: Migration fills the gap between demand and supply for labour, and efficiently allocates skilled, unskilled, and cheap labour.
  • Development of Skills: Exposure and interaction with the outside world enhance migrants' knowledge and skills.
  • Quality of Life: Migration enhances employment opportunities and economic prosperity, which in turn improves quality of life. The migrants also send money home, which has a positive effect on their families back to their hometown.
  • Social Evolution: Migration helps to improve the social life of migrants, as they learn about new cultures, customs, and languages which helps to improve brotherhood among people and ensures greater equality and tolerance.
  • Food and Nutrition Security: According to the 2018 State of Food and Agriculture report by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), outmigration often leads to improved food and nutrition security for migrants.

What are the Challenges Associated with Domestic Migration in India?

  • Feminisation of Agriculture: Due to their education opportunities and preference for physical labour, men are typically viewed as breadwinners. Due to this, males in the Indian rural belt tend to migrate to urban areas in search of better jobs, whereas women are primarily responsible for household chores and agriculture.
    • The separation of male spouses, the lack of companionship, and the increased household responsibilities may lead to mental health problems among left-behind female spouses.
  • Absence of WASH Facilities: In a 2020 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) on internal migrants, the lack of adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities has been a major challenge for migrant workers where lack of social security compounds the lack of decent housing.
  • Inaccuracy of Identifying Migrants: Migrants are placed within two larger categories that have troubled policymakers for a long time: unorganised workers and urban poor. Despite the use of the e-Shram portal, it has been difficult to accurately distinguish and target migrants.
    • Policy interventions in major urban destinations continue to conflate the urban poor with low-income migrants.
  • Pressure on Resources of Host Cities: Influx of workers and population explosion increase competition for jobs, houses, schools, etc, and overpopulation overloads resources, amenities, and services in host cities.
    • Resulting from mass migration is the development of slums, which compromises quality of infrastructure and life at destinations, which further causes unhygienic conditions, crime, and pollution.
  • Prone to Abuse: Non-literate and underqualified migrants lack basic knowledge and remain out of the pursuit of formal jobs that makes them prone to abuse, exploitation, trafficking, psychological abuse, and gender-based violence against female migrants.

How Sustainable Development Goals Recognise Migrants?

  • As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (with its core principle of "leave no one behind," including migrants), migration is recognized for the first time as a contributor to sustainable development.
  • 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain targets and indicators that are relevant to migration or mobility.
  • Target 10.7 in the SDGs stresses the importance of facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migrations, including by implementing well-managed migration policies.

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • Migration-Centric Policies: In order to achieve inclusive growth and development and reduce distress-induced migration, India needs to develop migration-centric policies, strategies, and institutional mechanisms, helping India on the path of achieving Sustainable Development Goals and reducing poverty.
  • Organising the Informal Economy: Migrant data must be collected for the purpose of city development like the SMART Cities Mission can result in a large number of green jobs for migrants.
  • Urban Employment Guarantee: To provide basic living standards to urban poor as well as migrants, urban areas need a scheme similar to MGNREGA.
    • The Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme has been rolled out in Rajasthan is a good step in this direction.
  • Social Security: Having a social security blanket is important to ensure migrants do not run out of funds during health crises, child-rearing, or child-education.
    • As a result, migrants' psychological conditions will also improve.
  • Upgrading Slums: Providing basic amenities such as Clean Water, Sanitation and Electricity to the slum areas should be at priority.
    • Slums need to be rehabilitated and upgraded along with establishing identity markers based on the National Food Security Act List as well as recording the hygiene condition.
  • Migration Support Centres: To reduce the trauma of migrants arriving in cities in search of work, Migration Support Centres can be established.
    • Support for the destitute and the homeless must be made a priority.

Drishti Mains Question

Discuss major issues associated with domestic migration in India. Also suggest innovative measures to improve the living conditions of migrants.