Migrant Crisis – A Reality Check

Migrant Crisis – A Reality Check

This article is written by R.Kaviya, prosecuting IBC Executive certificate course from Lawsikho. This article talks about the problems which the migrants face and what are the steps that its authorities undertakes to resolve this issue.


Since the proclamation of lockdown in India, information directs and other social media scaffolds have been depicting vexing pictures of people stepping their route back to their hometowns without be made available to basic requisites. They are the migrant labourers who are worst hit by the shutdown enforced. High-pitched Commissioner for Human Freedom, Michelle Bachelet has also expressed his concern over the migrant worker’s problems.

Migrants- the Most Susceptible Class

According to the website of the Registrar General& Census Commissioner, a person is considered as migrant when a he/ she is enumerated in Census at a different situate than his/ her place of birth. Migrants are the marginalized and vulnerable groups which are experiencing the worst economic hardships as a result of containment calibrates. According to the census, the level of urbanization in India has increased to 31.16% in 2011. There have been estimates that the magnitude of inter-state migration in India was close to 9 million yearly between 2011 and 2016, while Census 2011 pegs that the total number of internal migrants in the country is around 139 million.

Relevance of Migrant Population

Internal migration is essential for financial swelling and blooming as it enables the allocation of labour to more productive possibilities across sectors and benefits the region that beings migrate to and also the place where they migrate from. Yet, interstate migration in India is less than in other countries at a same stage of financial evolution, studies register. This is largely because migrants contribute to the fiscal emergence of their destination states but get few social welfare benefits there.

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Migrants are also like all other people in the multitude sphere and face the same health threats from COVID-1 9 but they are also subject to special vulnerabilities. Lack of access to essential services, discrimination and isolation based on language and culture; shortage of migrant-inclusive health programs, law and regulatory hindrances, etc. introduce them in jeopardy.

Is the Government Efficient in Protecting the Rights of Migrant Labourers?

We need a holistic approach to answer this question so as to hit upon a way out of this quandary of move labours. In affirmative to the above question, the three forks of Indian Government i.e. the legislative, ministerial and judiciary have been taking significant initiatives to protect the rights of the migrant workforce.

Legislative’s Role

identified its responsibility and passed important legislations to protect their rights in light of the inadequacy of other general labour legislations. Inter-State Migrant Workmen( Regulation of Employment and Requirements of Service) Act, 1979; Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 and The Building and Other Structure Workers( Regulation Of Employment And Modes Of Service) Act, 1996 are the specific legislations who the hell is played. But regrettably, State Migrant Workmen( Regulation of Employment and Necessities of Service) Act, 1979 is one of the least enforced legislations in the country and whether the intended purpose of the Act has been attained is again an important question that needs to be answered and the same is discussed in the later parts of the section.

Judiciary’s persona

With regard to the actions of the other two branches of the Government, two writ applications which were filed in the Supreme court of India are noteworthy.

Alakh Alok Srivastava v. UOI

In the PIL filed by Mr. Alakh Alok Srivastava, he cried for issuance of a direction to the Union of India for immediate the purpose of determining the moving/ stranded migrant workers and to alter them to the government shelter homes or housing and provide them with proper food, clean-living clean drinking water and drugs under medical supervising, in a dignified style. A composite plan for rehabilitation of aggrieved workers including free transportation, one-month statutory wage to each migrant and one-month free food after the lockdown was over; setting up of a “Migrant Labourer Crisis Management Board as a Common Gateway” for the supervision and monitoring of the welfare measures to avoid such crisis in the future; established for a 24 -Hour Multi-Lingual Call Centre as a pivotal point for accurate information and effective grievance for redressal to migrant workers in a crisis situation in future were all cried for by the petitioner.

Harsh Mander& Anr. v. Union of India

In another writ petition filed by social organizer, Mr. Harsh Mander and Ms. Anjali Srivastav, petitioners endeavoured immediate payment of minimum wages to migrant workers and poverty-stricken self-employed people. This petition pertained to the order issued by Ministry of Home Affairs whereby it guided all employers to pay compensations to the migrant workers, and that their proprietors shall not evict them. The PIL claimed that this was an insufficient measure, and the Central and State Authority should ensure the wages to be paid to the migrant workers at the place they were at, during the lockdown. The petitioners raised concerns about safety of about 15 Lakh migrant labourers over-crowding at awning residences for nutrient and accessibility of ration at the protect homes set up for migrant workers. In both the writ petitions, the State registered its status report referring to which it protected and detailed the initiatives taken by the Central and many State Governments to protect the rights of migrant workers amidst the cataclysm.

The Solicitor General stated that they have done what was priority first and further referred to a report showing transfer of an amount of money to people’s details via direct benefit carry-over and explained that the Government was also catering to their financial needs. The Court was satisfied with the Government’s status report and eventually both the petitions were disposed.

Executive- few remarkable the instigation of the Government

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana whereby poor people were to be provided with rations; financial assistance to construction workers were to be provided through Welfare Fund for Building and Other Interpretation Employees; relief tents; obligatory tacks issued to all employers to make payment of incomes to their workers at their workplaces on the due date without any thinking; attitude issued to landlords not to enforce migrant workers and other poor people to pay the rent with strict fiats to the district administration to take action against violating landlords; advisory issued by Government of India for authorities to effectively deal with rumour spreading to prevent unnecessary panic and panic among the migrants; plan to counsel casual laborer to deal with the panic state of mind; setting up of helpline figure for helping the poor laborers, etc.

Though the efforts of the Government are really discernible, it is undeniable that we are falling short at some station from achieving the ultimate goal of protecting the rights of the migrant population.

Has the Welfare Schemes reached the Target Group?

According to the report published by Stranded Workers Action Network, groupings of voluntaries connecting succour to proletarians stranded across India due to the COVID-1 9 lockdown, about 50 percentage of older workers had foods left for less than 1 day which has remained unchanged since the first stage of the lockdown. It had risen to about 54 percent for a few days after 14 th April. More than 97 percentage( out of 10,383 surveyed) have not received any cash relief from the government. With no cash-relief for migrants, 64% have less than Rs. 100 left behind them and in many instances it was reported that the money transferred to their bank accounts was also rebated by banks as sanction for not maintaining minimum balance. More than 99% of the self-employed have had no earnings during this period. These include street vendors, rickshaw pullers.

Moreover, the financial package( Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana) “ve got nothing” to offer for the migrant workers. Jan Sahas database of nearly 60,000 works, therefore seems that 17% of craftsmen do not have a bank account, hence will be excluded from gaining any benefit from the financial package announced. It was too found that the bank accounts are inactive for at least 30 -4 0% of labourers who have accounts.

While there was an announcement of some cash support for construction workers, in reality, most construction workers are not registered and hence not even eligible to receive any currency brace. Hence, the central government’s announcement of aid to construction workers from the cess collected by labour aid cards means nothing to the millions of stranded migrants who are not registered. As on April 26 th, merely about 6% of all those who have reached out to the group have received their full payments during the lockdown and about 78% have not been paid at all. This eliminates the self-employed employees. Some who have been given ration by the employers was saying that the money for the foods will be deducted and a few craftsmen have also been threatened not to complain. With neither nutrient nor currency, migrant workers have been propagandized to the brink of starvation, panicking levels of vulnerability and extreme indignity. Though food is the very basic necessity, it alone cannot do good without some financial assistance.

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Possible Solutions and Recommendations

Stringent enforcement of regulation and legislative reform- There is a statutory obligation to record migrant labour in many legislations that is binding on the central and state governments such as the National Disaster Management Act( 2005 ), the Interstate Migrant Worker Act( 1979 ), and the Street Vendors Act( 2014 ), among others. Further, there are other wage regulations which mandate that workers are entitled to the payment of full and timely wages, to displacement allowance, a residence tour allowance including payment of incomes during the journey. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure compliance of these ordinances for a safe and secure working environment for migrant workers. The majority of stranded craftsmen were not able to recall the name of the prime builder or fellowship they have been working for. Their merely link to the city or town where they are working is through their contractor. They were only able to name their contractor , not even the name of the cross-file company of the contractor.

In most cases, contractors have turn off the light their phones leaving craftsmen to fend for themselves. Though it is their duty to ensure regular payment of wages to such workers, contractors cannot be blamed only since they are themselves are not in a chime position to enforce the rights of migrants. In one instance, Salim Sheikh, a small-time contractor managed to arrange for specks for 50 of his workers and he contacted out to SWAN and said that he had not been able to pay the labour compensations as due to the lockdown, his business has made a severe hit. Hence, the Government must ensure that every primary employer strictly adheres to paying the wages to their contractors and to the workers. Labour legislations, extremely the Interstate Migrant Worker Act( 1979 ), need to be updated in order to avoid such issues in the future. The OECD Economic survey report published in December 2019 makes a key recommendation to ratify more flexible and simpler labour laws.

Use of technology to improve efficiency- Bihar was the first state to introduce an app-based transfer of Rs. 1,000 to moves stranded outside the state and Jharkhand introduced a same app through which stranded moves can get up-to Rs. 2,000. Through this app, these two states have been able to provide some immediate relief to stranded migrants and despite certain difficulties, 13 lakh people have successfully registered on the Bihar government app. Such lotions prove to be extremely useful and if introduced to the whole nation, this will be allowed the Government to channelize the rations and financial assistance more effectively. Even if not initiated as a whole new app, an updation of the existing Arogya Setu app to include such pieces would be beneficial.

Supply of rations- Numerous academics, economists and activists have been previously appealed to the government to provide foods by using the stocks from the FCI godowns, universalise food security and provide cash relief to workers at the least. The Tamil Nadu Government provides free food at all its Amma canteens throughout the lockdown. Schemes like this would help not only the migrants but everyone below the poverty line.

Safer transportation-The Ministry of Home Affairs order issued on 29 th April tolerates migrant workers to travel back to their hometowns but this needs much more clarity. The prescribe as it stands exclusively mentions travel by road. Special learns should be organised for inter-state migrants instead of buses because of the large number of migrants and long distances. Likewise teaches will be less costly and must be done on Indian Railways/ Central government expenditures and not by state governments. Mustering bus fare from them would establish the whole idea of providing transportation meaningless and the Government shall make arrangements for free transportation.

A comprehensive coming to this crisis has implications for national and regional public health, housing, and fiscal programs. Further, it is important that migrants are included in measures that are being introduced to mitigate the economic downturn caused by COVID-1 9.

Need to protect their right to live with dignity- Food Security, Wage Compensation, Shelters, Housing and Transportation are important relief measures which will help alleviate some of the problems faced by migrants in the short to medium term. However, it essential to to deliberate on the dignity of the lives of the workers and migrants in the longer term. In one speciman, a migrant worker stated that those who went to provide food clicked portraits with all of them but simply two of them were provided with food. Similarly, in many other instances, the dignity of migrants haven been dismissed. This clearly shows that the Government is not solely is accountable for their plight.


A pandemic is not the time for blamed sport as everybody including the Government, health care professionals and NGOs are all striving hard to tackle the situation. In many arranges, civil society organisations render gratifying and transmission service and several individuals have really stepped up by contributing funds, foods and cooked nutrient. In Delhi/ Gurgaon and parts of Tamil Nadu, it has been reported that the landowners have rendered their renters, principally migrant workers and daily wage labourers, with food and food, in addition to relaxing the payment year for the hire. In some places in Tamil Nadu, neighbourhood food market owneds have given ration supplies on loan to migrant workers from West Bengal. The worst affected, the migrant workers themselves, indicating how great charity and shared their rations with those in need. Amidst all the disheartening things happening during the pandemic, instances like this provide us an affirmation that we can overcome this if we all stand united( adhering to social distancing norms) with humanity.

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