Monday, June 1, 2015

Migration Series -3

Let me move ahead in the last part of Migrant Series. (1 and 2) .Whenever someone comes with an idea on research on the issue of migration and informal sector, there is complete lack of valid data on the nature and terms of employment, particularly in the informal sector. This is directly linked with the state’s unwillingness or inability to use resources for counting the large number of informal sector workers including child workers, bonded labour, migrant workers, home-based workers, domestic workers, and manual scavengers.

A person migrate to a prosperous region due to low employment opportunities at home, low agricultural productivity, deeply entrenched feudalism, and negative industrial growth of the region. Due to irregular cash flow nature of agriculture, a household has no other option but to seek credit at exorbitant interest rates from the local money lender during an emergency situation. The household requires huge money for repayment that isn't much available in returns from the agriculture. That is one of the reasons of the migration in any part of the India. This migration is facilitated by contractors and relatives. They are even willing to accept any distress wages that are offered as long as they have access to employment. In the dire need, they neglect the problems of not having an identity cards, lack of awareness about potential employers or favourable working conditions. The share of agricultural households among rural households varied from 27 per cent in Kerala to 78 per cent in Rajasthan. And, an accurate mapping of agricultural household and migrants can show the true picture of migration in India.

According to a recent census report, three out of five people in Indian cities live in slums; the increasing migration will make that four out of five within the decade. Covering over 4,000 towns, the report reveals a figure of 65 million living in unauthorised squalor. "Unrecognised" slums have no access to safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation. Chakarpur village in Gurgaon is a hub of migrants from Bangladesh and West bengal. Such migrants always have a sense of vulnerability and social isolation that is exacerbated by their ignorance, illiteracy and the alien environment. Urban middle class populations who generally hold negative views on migrants. Local Rajasthani and Punjabi is considered as “indigenous and authentic” whereas the migrant from Bihar is a sinister criminal in New Delhi. Low skilled workers are utilized in construction sector, domestic servants, chauffeurs and gardeners while women and child are working as maids, rag pickers, and scavengers with low and irregular income. These slum residents provide cheap labour as their average wages are just 40-70% of the local labour. There is a CARE report on such pathetic living conditions.

Mosse et al (2005) highlight the fact that most formal channels for protection of seasonal migrant workers such as the Minimum Wages Act (1948), the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (sic) Act (1979) and the Construction Workers Act (1996) among many others have demonstrated a bias towards formal sector workers and hence failed to deliver. As a result most informal sector migrant workers rely on contractors and agents to cope with socio-economic risks. Most of these insurance products sold by agents (usually friends and acquaintances of the migrant) have limited knowledge of the product themselves. The reliability of such agents is always in doubt and rarely case is heard about claim settlements through employer. Exhaustive working hours, poor nutrition and occupational hazards (injuries occurring at the workplace) always push migrants back to the source. Early return is a complex and multi-layered issue that often destabilizes the social, economic and psychological well-being of a migrant.

Bonded labour is rampant in brick kilns, stone quarries, beedi manufacturing, carpet weaving and construction, and child bonded labour in the silk industry. Bondage has been rampant across the state, but the government denies the fact. While thousands of bonded labourers have over the years been released, only very few of them were issued release certificate by the authorities concerned. The bigger question is “whether the state is willing to abolish the bonded labour system?” Since no release certificates are issued to those released and no legal case filed against those who keep bonded labourers, hence there is no persecution.

In this last part of the series, we will give focus on Distress Migration and Human Trafficking. It must be kept in mind that trafficking is different from migration. There are important fundamental differences between migration and trafficking. Trafficking of women and children is one of the gravest organized crimes and violations of human rights done either through deception, coercion or debt bondage situation. Human trafficking is also up in India for the similar reasons -- a lack of economic opportunities, a corrupt state, and the rise of terrifying social pathologies. There were hundreds of thousands of migrants, nearly all male, who did not have wives or girlfriends with them, and having an expendable income. This made a much more fertile environment for prostitution, and hence human trafficking in India. There are various pull factors for destination are Jobs, promise of marriage and a better life, demand for young girls and finally access to sex trade.

Immigration has become symbolic of the disruption of communities, the undermining of identities and the fraying of the family values. It is an outright violation of the right to mobility when government stop people from emigrating for better life. But it is a quite impossible task and also not desirable to stop people from migrating voluntarily. However, there are strong voices that objects to migration. Immigration is clearly one of the most fiercely debated and toxic issues of today. Even in policy circles, there is a disconnected emphasis on remittances alone and less about social factors. In the short term migration may result in the loss of local financial and human capital, but it can also be beneficial and contribute to the long-term development of rural areas. Remittances generate significant indirect benefits to the community at large.

Do migrants really have a choice between two such different worlds, between aspiration and deprivation, power and powerlessness? There are no words for me to write on anger, violence and frustration of the migrant worker. The topic of gender, trafficking and migration has been around for a while, but substantive work on this topic that go beyond the anecdotal is yet hard to find. Those who are interested in basic study can look upto : An overview of migration in India, its impacts and key issue.


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