Arjun Kumar, Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Nishi Verma, Chhavi Kapoor
Migrants must have the right to decent work. Keeping the migrant workers issues at center stage and recognizing the social and economic cost of COVID-19 Pandemic IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute , Working Peoples’ Charter and Indian Social Institute organized a Panel Discussion on Migrant Workers, Labour Rights, Policy: Impact and Way Forward. The talk was to engage the panelists views on concerns of social security, livelihood and the impact of Pandemic.
Prof A V Jose, Honorary Visiting Professor, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Kerala began by recounting the success of the labor movement in Europe where governments have now tacitly begun to recognize the rights of the migrant workers. The rights of these migrants who came from nowhere became the agenda of international organizations. They are still not part of the legal architecture of the rich countries.
Precariat of the World
Migrants in Indian have left the countryside in search of a dignified means of survival. Their only demand is that of a reasonable income. As per estimates of the period Labor Force Survey, migrants in the state of origin were earning on average only Rs 6800 for male workers and Rs 4000 for female workers. Less than 5000 for male and less the Rs 3500 women that harbor most migrants. Even after self-employment, there was only a marginal rise in income which is less than Rs 7000 for male workers and less than Rs 3500 for female workers.
This is proof of regional and glaring gender inequality. They believed that a secure income was a possibility in urban centers. These workers at the most earn Rs 20000 on an average of Rs 13000 per month for men and Rs. 15000 per month for women at their destination. They were exploited by the national elite, these were the progeny of the demographic transition of India with minimal education and products of a fertility transformation and rise in population. They transformed into squallers and failed to extend humane conditions for the migrants.
Right to Decent Work
A breakdown and any sense of vulnerability would have led to complete devastation of their wages and livelihoods. This is exactly what happened during the pandemic, in the absence of healthcare and security the migrants were left with no choice but to return to the countryside. Any serious discourse on rights must recognize that entitlements mature into rights, social norms were built into the legal framework of the international organizations. Only lip service was provided in the convections on migrant rights.
In our country the moment you migrate you forfeit the right to participate in the electoral process, leading to a situation where there is no possibility for this section of the population to be acknowledged or recognized. Until and unless we are able to embellish and enhance the content off their entitlement we cannot incorporate them into the language of human rights. A mere legal reform is not enough, back in the countryside. There is a need to replace distress-based migration with demand-based migration.
There should be a focus on redistributive transfers focused on education, healthcare, and urban and dignified living environment, which again and alone will create the minimum resource price. Based on this each migrant worker can decide autonomously on the need for migration. No individual would be pushed into migration. There is no shortage of resources it is just a question of polities to work together.