Udaipur, May 22 (IANS) Legally mandated access to basic facilities as an entitlement for migrant labourers is among the main recommendations of a study by the Ajeevika Bureau to address the problems migrant labourers will face in a post Covid scenario.
The Ajeevika Bureau has been working with migrant communities, both at the source and destination, in two Indian states -- Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung office has supported Ajeevika Bureau in understanding and indepth field research on the condition of the migrants in two Indian cities -- Surat and Ahmedabad.
The study says that the outcome of this research may prove to be useful and for ongoing policy discourses to make the conditions for migrants "Formal, Adequate and Consistent".
For migration, the Covid-19 crisis is a window of opportunity as long known structural exclusions have become newly, sharply visible, the study says.
"The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown triggered vast movements of internal migrant workers desperate to leave the urban areas where they work to reach their home villages," it said.
Only a few were able to make it back, taking long and dangerous off-routes by foot, in order to evade authorities, who viewed them primarily as "carriers of infection", the study noted.
"Many more were detained at borders where they faced police brutality and harassment, were doused in disinfectants and asked to produce health certificates, which they had no means of acquiring, or forced into shelter homes enroute," it pointed out.
However, a large majority of migrant workers remain stranded in the cities and towns where they have not been paid wages for previous work, forced to take unpaid leave or removed from their jobs.
In panic, they are calling numerous helplines, most of which remain unreachable, to ask for ration, wages or to let them return home.
The study noted that even as the lockdown has been extended, adequate systems still not have been put in place for reaching out to migrant workers, who in addition to uncertainty and fear, have gone without basic provisioning for weeks, fuelling unrest across cities.
"Immediate measures taken during this phase to integrate migrant workers into formal provisioning and employment systems can prove effective in moving towards migrant inclusive cities in the post pandemic phase," the study noted.
The Ajeevika Group has recommended that any solution for the provision of basic facilities and services for the migrants needs to be legally mandated. Enabling migrant workers to claim access to basic facilities as a matter of entitlement will go a long way in empowering them and avoiding undue dependence on the benevolence of employers or local informal providers, thereby reducing the possibility of extractive practices that such arrangements often result in.
Designing mechanisms to ensure access to reliable, reasonably priced, high-quality public services will also help in reducing the arbitrariness that is otherwise associated with access, and consequently bring down the large mental and physical tolls that accompany such efforts, the study has recommended.
In addition, it has recommended provisioning or subsidising minimum consumption by the states or the employers. A common feature observed across all vulnerable migrant groups is that they are unable to purchase minimum consumption for a dignified life in the city, as they earn sub-optimal wages and are restricted to the lowest rungs of the urban labour markets.
"In order to ensure a minimum standard of living for these communities, basic facilities and services have to be directly provided by the state or employer, or in cases where it is directly purchased from the market, it has to be subsidized by the state or
employer," the study said.
The manner in which different groups of circular migrants may be subsidised, and whether it will take the form of direct or indirect provisioning will depend on the nature of their employment, circularity and mobility and resultant specific needs of the groups.
"However, state or employer liability, responsibility and accountability must be clearly fixed on the differentiated needs of these groups," as per the study.