Draft Migrant Labour Policy by Niti Aayog
- Enormous suffering was endured by the country’s circular migrants during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in 2020.
- NITI Aayog has released the Migrant Labour Policy.
Need for a policy
- Need for support: Circular migrants are employed in precarious jobs in the informal sector without contracts or documents to prove their identity or claim state support.
- Inadequate government response:Additional 5 kg of wheat or rice and a kilo of preferred pulses was provided free of cost every month. This was continued until November 2020 and in June 2020, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan, a rural public works scheme to employ returning migrants in some states was launched. But these were relief measures only and did not address long-term issues.
- Ration card portability and tax holiday for affordable rental housing, Shramik trains were some measures but were delayed and partial.
- The government allocated 35% lesser money for 2021-22 compared to the previous year's revised estimate.
- Poor Data management: The last migration survey by the National Sample Survey was conducted in 2007-08. The government has maintained no data on the death of migrant workers or lockdown-related job losses among migrant workers.
- Son of the soil issue: Many states reserving jobs for their own residents, in the face of the ongoing economic crisis.
Thus, a migrant policy would ensure that migrants face the least hurdles in the quest for earning a living during such emergencies and beyond.
Salient points of the draft policy
- Contribution: It acknowledges that the circular migrants contribute at least 10 per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), and also acknowledges their vulnerability to crises like the COVID-19.
- Rights-based approach: It provides 2 tactics on policy design:
- cash transfers, special quotas, and reservations;
- Others which enhance the agency and capability of the community.
- Comprehensive law: The NITI Aayog’s policy draft acknowledges the shortcomings of the Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1979 and states that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should amend the 1979 Act to protect migrants.
- Coordination: lays down institutional mechanisms to coordinate between Ministries, states, and local departments to implement programmes for migrants.
- Ministry of Labour and Employment is the nodal Ministry
- Stemming migration:The draft policy lists a number of government programmes and laments their failure in checking migration from the tribal areas.
- It notes that the absence of community building organisations and administrative staff in the source states has blocked access to development programmes, pushing tribals towards migration.
- It asks the source states to raise minimum wages to bring a major shift in the local livelihood of the tribals.
- Role of Panchayats:It promotes the role of panchayats to aid migrant workers and integrate urban and rural policies to improve the conditions of migration.
- Panchayats should 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.
- Credible data:It calls for a central database to help employers fill the gap between demand and supply and help ensure maximum benefit of social welfare schemes.
- Preventing Exploitation: It describes a lack of administrative capacity to handle issues of exploitation and that the state labour departments have little engagement with migration issues.
- Better implementation: It recognises that existing laws and legislation have not succeeded in protecting migrants as intended and recommends better implementation.
- Support: It highlights other areas where migrants could be better supported including financial services, skills development, political inclusion and education, among others.
- Other Specific Recommendations:The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship should focus on skill-building at these centres.
- It asks the Ministry of Education to take measures under the RTE to mainstream migrant children’s education, to map migrant children, and to provide local-language teachers in migrant destinations.
- MoHUA to address issues of night shelters, short-stay homes, and seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
- The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and the Ministry of Labour should set up grievance handling cells and fast track legal responses for trafficking, minimum wage violations, and workplace abuses and accidents for migrant workers.
- Explicit mention of important categories of less-visible occupations such as domestic workers is needed since India has not ratified the International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention, 2011.
- Policy needs to be strengthened in addressing gender differences in employment.
- Carry out serious assessments to understand the micro-processes that lead to mistargeting, lack of uptake and various irregularities in the implementation of schemes
- There is a need to understand past failures. For example, efforts by banks to reach migrants for remittance services have had mixed results.
- The role of brokers, who act both as facilitators and profiteers, is a complex one and they need to be regulated.
- Labour welfare law needs to extend its ambit to migrant workers in micro-units that employ fewer than 10 employees.
- Urban employment schemes designed like MGNREGS could provide jobs and income security for the low-skilled urban poor.
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