Incited by the exodus of 10 million migrants from urban India during the COVID-19 lockdown, NITI Ayog has announced the inclusion of a pilot subgroup on migrant workers. Labour and Employment minister, Santosh Gangwar, said that NITI Ayog has constituted to prepare a subgroup to prepare a national action plan for migrant workers.
A right based-approach
The draft describes two aspects of the policy design- one that focuses on cash transfers, special quotas, and reservation; while the other ” enhances the agency and capability of the community and thereby removes aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive.” It is determined to provide permanent economic or social aids to migrant citizens. As per the draft,” migrants should be acknowledged as an integral part of development”, and “government policies should not hinder but…seek to facilitate internal migration”.
The Gordian knots
As per the 2017 report, discrete legislation for migrant workers was unnecessary. It included the limitations of The Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1979, which was created to protect labours from exploitation by safeguarding their rights to non-discriminatory wages, travel and displacement allowances, and suitable working conditions. The NITI Ayog policy draft demands the Ministry of Labour and Employment an amendment in its 1979 Act for “effective utilisation to protect migrant.”
Special Units Formation
The NITI draft features an institutional mechanism to coordinate between Ministries, state and local department to implement programmes for migrants. Ministry of Labour and Employment portraying the nodal unit, the other ministries should converge to manage migration resource centres in high migration zones, a national labour Helpline, links of worker households to government schemes, and inter-state migration management bodies.
Prevent exploitation and stem migration
Forming a major difference with the 2017 report, the draft demands the state to raise minimum wages to “bring a major shift in local livelihoods of tribal which may stimulate migration.” Owing to the lack of administrative bodies to handle issues of exploitation, the draft demands legal support and registration tracking potentials in Odisha, Nashik, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. An engagement of the Panchayati Raj should be considered to maintain a database of migrant workers, issue identity cards and passbooks, and provide “migration management and governance” through training, placement, and social-security benefit assurance.
TPT Policy Advocacy and Recommendations
- A rights-based approach to welfare and social security would only establish if the migrant workers have unionisation, mobilisation and a centre for assistance and grievances. Is political inclusion a cheat code of the government to voice elections in their accolade?
- With a huge populace relocated amidst the lockdown owned to the pandemic. The Labour and Employment committee is infallible for their perfidious attitude towards the assistance of migrant citizens of the nation. The NITI Ayog Policy calls for a stringent scrutinization of annual migrations of the citizens from districts, sub-districts and villages to monitor the committee’s growth, sustenance and social protection of both concordat and independent migrants. Is the Indian government habile enough to fulfil the laws laid under the new national policy? Will it be a panacea for the migrant workers’ misery?