Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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The return of migrants: A curse or an opportunity?

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Migration has always been inevitable as it takes place due to push and pull (real or perceived) factors. But recent migration has become a socio-economic issue due to overpopulation and ensuing consequences. There are four types of migration viz rural to urban, urban to rural, rural to rural and urban to urban. Of all these, rural to urban migration accounts for majority of migration. India has seen a lot of uncontrolled migration which has caused urbanisation issues at one end, and women related issues in source areas.

So, the question is whether it is a good time to stop labour migration? With most of the labour returning back home during this lockdown, states can seize this opportunity to roll out measures so that labour stays in their hometown by eliminating the push factors which compel labour movement in the first place.

Migration Transition Model by Wilbur Zelinsky, American cultural geographer, talks about rural-urban migration as the biggest contributor to migrant population and the resulting issues in urban areas. This wave, coupled with governance issues leads to many problems like overcrowded areas, encroachments, ghettos and squatter living, spike in crime rates, and so on. The current urban – rural migration due to lockdown nowhere fits in any migration models, but can be studied upon spatially and seized as an opportunity to undo negative effects of migration. After all, nobody wants to leave their homes. Its always the pull or push factors that compel living beings to migrate.

A slew of measures need to be taken, like an investment package can be promised for construction industry where lot of labour is needed. Investments in textile and leather sector can be a game changer as these sectors are highly profitable from perspective of investment:employment created ratio. Textile sector promises to create most jobs when certain amount of investment is done.

Skill development is an important but neglected pillar. It is one of the headwinds for India’s economic transformation, highlighted in Economic Survey 2018. So it is an opportune time to upgrade skills of labour not just as per demands of market, but also as per their native place. PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana, National Skill Development Mission and Atal Innovation Mission can be instrumental in this.

Apart from these steps, government shall make provisions for quality education with nutrition for migrant kids. It can serve as an indispensable incentive for migrants to stay in their native place. Also, social security and tweaking of labour laws is must to ensure that contract labor practices are toned down as it often leads to violation of proper wages, working conditions and security of tenure.

All these steps can serve as a panacea for migrant issues in major cities of India and undo the problems created due to faulty policies from state perspective and deprivation factors faced by migrants.

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