Policy Round Table on Migration


Date: Feb. 26, 2017

Venue: Executive Holiday, House No. 03, Kitab Bhawan lane, Ram Krishna Path, North S. K. Puri (Beside Krishna Apartment), Boring Road, Patna-800001

Panelists: Prof. Ravi Srivastava, JNU; Shri Subhash Bhatnagar, Trade Unionist, Delhi; Shri Ashish Ranjan, NAPM, Bihar; and Shri Umi Daniel, Aide-et-Action, Bhubaneswar

Moderator: Prof. Navin Chandra

The round table on migration is dedicated to a discussion on policy measures and possible trajectory for government policy for migrant labor. Internal migration is a pervasive reality in India as an estimated 120 million persons migrate from rural areas to urban labour markets. In recent decades, the rate of growth of female labour migration has far exceeded that of male labour migration. The labour out-migration is mainly from poorer regions, states and districts; tribal areas; areas that face frequent problems of drought, floods, conflicts; and states that has highest rural population. Demographically, labour migrants come mostly from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Muslim minorities, younger age-group, less educated, less skilled, and economically poor groups. Construction work, domestic work, textile, brick kiln, transportation, mines and quarries, and agriculture are the top employers of the migrant workers. Labour contractors are major source of recruitment of migrant labour but in recent times, social networks of the migrants have also emerged as a facilitating factor in long-distance migration.

Despite enormous contribution of the migrant workforce in India’s economy, their well-being remains a major challenge as the policy and legal framework in the country have largely overlooked them. No state government has ever tried to enforce the Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1979 which had the potential to make some impact on the plight of the migrants. The overwhelming majority of the migrants finds employment in the unorganized sector where workers are largely devoid of legal and social protection, are poorly paid, denied fair work as well as living conditions and are subjected to various insecurities.  The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) in its landmark report in 2006 has made out a case for national minimum social security to all unorganized/informal workers. This led to the enactment of the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 which tries to address the issue of lack of social protection for workers to meet such contingencies as ill-health, accident, death, and old age.

Thus, the past two decades have seen parallel and opposite processes happening simultaneously - on the one hand, sustained attacks on labour rights in the wake of Liberalisation and, on the other, resistance and labour movements leading to a new policy framework. It is in this backdrop that the policy round table is being held. The objective of the round table is to take a stock of current labour conditions in its legal, political, and social framework and come up with ideas about how to facilitate better migration outcomes and how best to give directions to policy dialogues around migrant labour. In this context the question of portability of rights across the country acquires significance. A thorough discussion would take place on the challenges faced by government both from popular opinion and “rule of experts.” It is important to see this question, also, in the context of the ongoing crisis in politics and economy around the world. The round table, hopefully, will open up new avenues for thinking about migrant labour in terms of law, governance, rights, and more importantly political action.

Some Questions for the Policy Round Table on Migration

  1. What are some of the recent trends and issues in inter-state labour migration that state policies need to respond to?
  2. What is the existing policy and legal framework to deal with inter-state migration so that the interests and rights of the migrants are protected? What have been the experiences so far with the Inter-state Migration Act?
  3. What have been the experiences so far of the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act in general and the national as well as state Welfare Boards and Welfare Funds for the workers in the unorganised sector in particular?
  4. How can portability of social protection measures of the migrants be made possible? Which social protection measures/rights can be made portable? What role the digital technology can possibly play in portability of rights?
  5. What are the roles of the sending and receiving states in ensuring portability of rights across state boundaries? What kind of inter-state coordination mechanisms can be created? What are the experiences so far and how do we build on them?
  6. How can we ensure that the state labour machinery is responsive to the needs of migrants in the informal labour markets?
  7. How can housing needs of the migrants be incorporated into the urban planning, both in cases of intra-state as well as inter-state migration?
  8. How migration policies have responded to the vulnerabilities and risks that women migrant workers specifically face? How migration of women workers can be made safe, secure and economically rewarding?
  9. How the academic institutions in India have responded to the growing trend of migration in the areas of research, teaching and extension work? How can academics be made to work for the migrants?

You are cordially invited to this public event.