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Jharkhand govt launches initiative to enable systemic registration of migrant workers

“There’s a necessity to ensure strong interstate cooperation and coordination between destination and source states to enable social protection for migrant workers. SRMI will work towards achieving that..." said Arindam Banerjee, Co-Founder at PDAG.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Ranchi |
Updated: December 17, 2021 11:56:50 am
Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren during the launch of SRMI. (Twitter/Jharkhand CMO)

The Jharkhand government launched the Safe and Responsible Migration Initiative (SRMI) on Thursday to enable systemic registration of migrant workers for monitoring and analysis in the source as well as the destination districts. To begin with, the government will have two help desks—which will be known as ‘labour consulates’—in Ladakh Union Territory as well as in Kerala.

During the launch of the initiative, Jharkhand’s Chief Secretary, Sukhdeo Singh, said: “Human migration is a very complex topic. Our government is not against migrations. We also encourage it, if it is happening for good. But we saw a different side of this migration during the pandemic. SRMI aims to fill this gap.”

The launch was followed by two panel discussions which focussed on tracking women labourers who remain the most vulnerable, putting an end to the exploitative means, predicting distress migration and increased social security and welfare coverage for migrant workers.

Between March 27, 2020 to October 31, 2021, a total of 9.66 lakh workers have returned to Jharkhand. A migrant control room also runs in the state to cater to the problems of the labourers stuck in different states and to bring back dead bodies of the workers.

Extrapolating this situation to the workers who face similar problems in other parts of the world, Chief Minister Hemant Soren said: “How do we work for labourers who go outside the country? The Central govt needs to work on this…Mera driver bhi gulf country chala gaya…kal ko kuch hoga to khabar to hum tak aa jayegi, but hum inki madad nahi kar payenge. Isliye is vishay par bhi humlog charcha karein (My driver has gone to the Gulf country, tomorrow if something happens, I will definitely come to know, but I won’t be able to help him. There needs to be a discussion on this topic too).”

During the panel discussion ‘inter-state migration-learnings from Covid-19 era’, Rajeshwari B, MGNREGA commissioner who was Dumka Deputy Commissioner during both the Covid-19 waves, said that one thing which became clear was that migrant workers were abandoned by their employers.

“Migration is something which is inherent to humans, but exploitation can be very damaging and the question is how can we ensure that these things never happen? Men do have issues, but women are more vulnerable and not all of them come forward to explain their problems. We need some sort of tracking methodology specially for women labourers,” she said.

But despite several attempts to work for the rights of labourers, the Jharkhand government has not been able to implement the deal that it struck with the Border Roads Organisation—under Ministry of Defence—to get better pay for the labourers, mostly from Dumka, who construct roads and bridges in UT of Ladakh and other areas. Every year hundreds of labourers work in extreme precarious situations in hilly areas resulting in deaths of some.

Arindam Banerjee , co-founder at Policy and Development Advisory Group (PDAG)—which leads the consortium which will implement the SRMI and the group also advises Hemant Soren government on policy matters—was part of the group which again met the BRO officials and authorities of Ladakh UT to move the discussion in October last week.

During the panel discussion, he said: “That there’s a necessity to ensure strong interstate cooperation and coordination between destination and source states to enable social protection for migrant workers. SRMI will work towards achieving that in close synergy with the Chief Minister’s Office, Department of Labour and other stakeholders.”

Another panelist Mohammad Ali, editor of Greater Ladakh newspaper, said that they saw the migrant concerns in the hilly areas very closely. He alleged that at one instance labourers were ‘abandoned by the BRO’ in Ladakh area during April and May, which remain very cold. Emphasising on the need for SRMI, he added: “At one place after locals intervened nine labouers were rescued in which three died after coming under the snow. BRO did not take the responsibility.”

In the second panel discussion on ‘Role of technology and state in ensuring safe migration practices’, Secretary to the CM, Vinay Chaubey said that continuous monitoring remains the key as people who come from distressed districts such as Simdega, Gumla, Godda don’t have any savings and any shock lead them to distress migration.

Ashwini Chhatre, associate professor, Indian School of Business (ISB) and executive director, Bharti Institute of Public Policy, said that technology can often be misused, but once people are aware and conscious, the same can be used for predictive analytics.

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