Somebody rightly said that life is uncertain. Who could have thought that a period will come when the whole economy, throughout the world, will come to a standstill. Given the condition and the possible outcome expected from the spread of the disease, governments all across the globe, rightfully ordered lockdowns, so that the movement could be restricted and the destruction could be controlled. With the whole country confined, people with a fixed source of income can still find a way out but the sections of the society whose lives depend upon the daily wages are the ones who are barely able to meet their ends. Due to the lack of income, the desperation to go out and start working, against the mobility problem has become a whole new complication for these people. Therefore, The tangent that we intend to introduce in this discussion is about labour migration, in consonance with the ongoing period that involves lockdown due to COVID-19, throughout the country.
Basically, Labour migration is defined as the movement of persons from their home State to another State for the purpose of employment. It is estimated that an overwhelming 120 million people, or more, usually from the unorganized sector, migrate from rural areas to urban labour markets, industries and farms. Migration has become essential for people from regions that face frequent shortages of rainfall or suffer floods, or where population densities are high in relation to land. Their entry into the labour markets is marked with several endemic disadvantages. Rural India is incapable of absorbing the estimated 23 million interstate and intrastate migrant labour who returned home from urban areas due to the Covid-19 lockdown. According to the latest survey of the Centre For Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the overall rate of unemployment has risen from 8.4 percent to 23.8 percent as noted in the last week of March. As a matter of fact, the number of unemployed people has risen from 32 million to 38 million with corresponding figures for urban and rural areas as 30 and 21 percent.
Not that these people were neglected totally, the ministry of labour and unemployment issued an advisory to the workers of both public and private institutions to not terminate the jobs or reduce the wages of casual and contractual workers. Indian government has decided to make amendments to the Employees’ Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act in order to allow members to withdraw up to 75 percent of their balance in the fund or three months’ wages, whichever is lower, as an emergency measure to tide over any difficulties arising from the coronavirus pandemic. This will benefit 4.8 crore workers, who are registered with the EPF. It is also heard that a relief package could be announced for the most affected segment of the workforce due to the national lockdown. Apart from the ex-gratia efforts, a provision for helplines and provisional funds as also been done in order to take care of such people.
Indian Center for Development and Rights, iCFDR, is undertaking a research report of Labour migration in India and also studying its rise in Lockdown period. A part of this report is going to give a generic angle and try to attach the reasons, causes and all the factors responsible for labour migration, along with giving a comparative analysis of the lockdown period. We are preparing a research report, in order to provide policy recommendations and suggest appropriate solutions to policymakers for improving the lifestyles of such people. It would also work on drawing an outline of the conditions and consequences with a legal angle to the whole. In order to carry out full-fledged research, we have tried to involve labour laws related to all possible classes of people. Our community at iCFDR, constantly strive for the welfare and betterment of the vulnerable sections of the society who are largely affected by the pandemic. iCFDR is undertaking dry ration and mask distribution drive across the country. We are also working on spreading awareness about the precautions to be taken for containment of the spread of COVID19. iCFDR endeavours to mitigate the inhumane conditions caused by COVID19, subsequent lockdown and economic downturn for the weaker section.