In addition to the systematic bias against labour migrants in the realm of policy design, they are the victims of stigmatisation based on ethnicity, caste and class, states the report ‘Unlocking the Urban: Reimagining Migrant Lives in Cities Post-COVID 19′ by Aajeevika Bureau, a non-profit organisation based in Rajasthan that provides specialised services to migrant and informal workers.
The survey, conducted across 32 locations in Ahmedabad and 12 locations in Surat, explored experiences of exclusion faced by circular migrants employed in informal labour markets and their interaction with processes of urban governance. Around 285 circular migrants from Ahmedabad and 150 from Surat, employed across five work sectors of construction, manufacturing, hotel and dhaba, headloaders and domestic workers, were a part of this survey.
“Responses from representatives and city functionaries ranged from ignorance to apathy to active hostility…A widely held view among the health functionaries was that migrants are a big impediment to the smooth implementation of public health programmes and pose a threat to gains in health outreach, awareness and disease control,” the report states. “…’They make the city dirty,’ and ‘They live in congested areas and do not maintain cleanliness,’ were some of the common refrains… Officials viewed open defecation as a nuisance for local city dwellers, reflecting the state mentality of vigilante action against migrants, while not providing them with appropriate sanitation solutions. Police functionaries referred to them as ‘mind-dead,’ ‘criminal,’ and ‘always under the influence of substance abuse,’ citing them as an active security threat.”
Additionally, only a few workers reported preference to access free or subsidised public healthcare systems. “Their arguments underline the complex bureaucracy and stigmatisation at public healthcare providers, especially for non-Gujarati speaking migrants…At a rented room in Raipur, Adivasi construction workers said of private clinics, “[Doctors] see us immediately when we go there. They ask for the problem and then give us the medicine. In the public hospital, they tell you to go here and there for documentation and it takes a long time. They don’t pay much attention to workers, so two-three hours go by that way.”
“Workers at a construction site in Gota… added public hospital staff would (illegally) insist on formal Ahmedabad-based identification to receive treatment, which seasonal migrants do not have. Adivasi workers at a settlement in Durganagar also articulated the need for an informal connection, ‘We don’t go to government hospitals or clinics. We don’t have pehchaan (connection) there…we feel scared. Maar dale vahan toh kya karein [What if they kill us?],” the report quotes.
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