Thursday, May 28, 2020

Covid19, migrant workers and state response

Umi Daniel 

States that were once ignorant, casual and clueless about migrant workers, are struggling — amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis — to deal with the issues emerging from large scale reverse migration taking place in the country. 

COVID-19 has forced state governments that have a large number of migrant workers to make estimates about them. Jharkhand was the first to announce the return of approximately one million migrant workers who are stranded in different states.

Next was Uttar Pradesh with an estimated one million stranded migrant workers and then Odisha, which estimated the number of its migrant workers stranded across India to be 500,000. Naveen Patnaik, the state’s chief minister, recently held a video conference with his counterparts in Maharashtra and Gujarat for the safe return of its migrant workers.

The governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh  also organised special buses to bring stranded workers back to their home states. Students, pilgrims and patients — who have to travel to different states for treatment — are also waiting for their chance to return.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs — from the state disaster response fund budget — allocated Rs 29,000 crore to help stranded labourers with their immediate requirements of food, shelter and medicine.

The Union government, however, is clueless about the volume of migrant workers who are stranded or waiting to return to the states of their origin and is yet to come up with a national level plan and strategy to facilitate safe and orderly movement of people to their respective states.

This was quite evident when — during a video conference call on April 27, 2020 — Patnaik requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a national standard operating procedure for the safe return of stranded migrant labourers.

States that have large numbers of migrant labourers lack the required resources and logistics to ferry all of them across India.

On the other hand, resource-rich migrant destination states — along with the private sector that has benefitted from the sweat and labour of migrant laborers — currently focus on providing relief support and are yet to help the workers stranded in such states.

The lockdown has demoralised migrant workers and their incomes have been drastically reduced. The states and the private sector that house migrant labourers need to bear in mind that their current help, care, compassion and security will undeniably boost confidence in migrants to come back to their workplaces once the lockdown ends.

Destination states and corporate houses, hence, need to invest, support and spend resources to conduct health testing of all the stranded workers along with sponsoring and coordinating transport for stranded labourers to their respective states.

The Centre should form a national task force with active participation of both kinds of states — those who send and receive migrants — and other key government line departments to work on the safe mobility of migrant workers and allocation of resources for protecting their lives and livelihood.

The task is not going to be easy once stranded migrants reach their homes. The states that get the influx of migrants need to utilise all the human resources, infrastructure, schemes and programmes they have to come up with both short-term and long-term strategies to support socio-economic, health and nutrition aspects.

The next six months are crucial for the Centre to provide both financial, policy and technical support for a long-term engagement with migrant labourers for providing food, work, livelihood and facilitating workers’ safe return back to their workplaces.

Friday, April 12, 2019

It’s not #MeToo, but ‘WeToo’ in Odisha

Satyasundar Barik

Campaign in migration-prone areas seeks to sensitise workers about sexual exploitation

At a time when the #MeToo fire rages on with several women unmasking their harassers, a campaign is under way in Odisha’s migration-prone districts to sensitise migrant women workers about sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation of women migrant workers from Odisha is widely regarded to be pronounced. But their agonising and harrowing ordeal mostly remains under wraps. They often suffer silently with no one to back them or confront theirtormenters. Now, 300 women are undergoing an orientation programme in the State that seeks to empowerthem to raise their voices against any type of sexual exploitation and ensure the safety of accompanying vulnerable adolescent girls. As a three-lakh-strong workforce is getting ready to travel to other States, women in six targeted panchayats of Balangir, Nuapada, Bargarh, Kalahandi, Subarnapur and Boudh districts are being sensitised about the precautions they need to take at their workplace.

The Western Odisha Migration Network, a civil society organisation, with support from organisations such as Aide et Action, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and Aaina are working on a database of women migrant workerleaders. They have also created a list of potential migrant women and adolescent girls. A registeris being introduced in all these six panchayats to track migration of all age groups. No one to hear complaints “There have been a number of legal instruments to deal with sexual harassment in the informal sector.

 But workplaces in which poor workers work have no such complaint committee where grievances can be redressed,” said Umi Daniel, head of Migration Information and Resource Centre, Aide et Action, South Asia, and a prominent expert on migration issues. “If anything happens to women, they would suffer silently and come back. From discussions with migrant women workers, we came to know that every third woman has experienced some kind of harassment, including sexual assaults,” he said.   “Now, we have started training 300 women. When these women go back to their workplace, they will talk to their peers. Important helpline numbers are being circulated among women workers forintimation in the event of an exigency. Women as dignified workers have the right to work in a non-exploitative environment outside the State and come back,” said Mr. Daniel. Of the hundreds of migrant women workers and adolescent girls, only a few have recently raised their voices and taken their sexual harassers to court. Around this time of the year, more than three lakh people from western Odisha districts migrate to Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and major towns of Odisha to work in brick kilns and the construction sector.

4/12/2019 It’s not #MeToo, but ‘WeToo’ in Odisha - The Hindu

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Worksite school for children of brick kiln workers begins in Telangana, 185 students enroll for classes

Srinivas Janyala

The project was initiated by Rachakonda Police Commissioner M M Bhagwat, who received the Trafficking in Persons Report Hero award in 2017, and Yadadri District Collector Anita Ramchandran and Aide et Action NGO,

Their tiny hands, accustomed to holding bricks, held the slates for the first time in wonder. Most of them had never worn a school dress before nor had been to a proper school. So, when a worksite school for children of brick kiln workers from Odisha was inaugurated at Peddakondur village in Yadadri Bhongir district in Telangana last Saturday, they were overjoyed.

They got new uniforms, slates, or notebooks, textbooks, pencils and pens depending on their age. Initiated by Rachakonda Police Commissioner M M Bhagwat, who received the Trafficking in Persons Report Hero award in 2017, and Yadadri District Collector Anita Ramchandran and Aide et Action NGO, the school enrolled 182 children of migrant labourers and the classes started on Monday. Aide et Action brought in five Odiya volunteer teachers trained in multi-grade teaching. They have started taking the classes from class 1 to 5 for children aged 3 to 12 years. The NGO is also providing Odiya medium textbooks and supervision of the school.

“Children of brick kiln workers are the most vulnerable to join as child labour. Without schools at the worksites, they automatically start working. Last year we had rescued over 350 children from brick kilns in Rachakonda Commissionerate area and sent them back to Odisha. Now, instead of sending them back they can be rehabilitated in the schools at the worksites, preventing them from becoming child labourers,” Police Commissioner M M Bhagwat said.

Daniel Umi, Director (Migration) Aide et Action, said that when the children return to their native villages in Odisha they can join the local school without any hassle.
“We have tied up with Odisha Government for admitting the kids who return from the worksite schools in Telangana. We will conduct exams here and give a certificate to the kids which will be valid in Odisha to take admissions there. It is a model which we have established at other places. The Rachakonda Police Commissioner has identified another 15 places in Yadadri, Ranga Reddy and Medchal areas to open schools for brick kiln children, to admit nearly 700 children. This is a huge initiative which saves them from being trapped in child labour. It is also a big improvement on the part of the brick kiln owners who are now owning up their responsibility towards the kids of the migrant labourers,” Umi said.

A majority of the Odiya migrants working in Telangana’s brick kilns are from Bolangir, Koraput, Naupada, and Kalahandi districts.

District Collector Anita Ramachandran has directed officials to extend the government mid-day meal scheme to the kids attending the worksite school, and the Rs 1 per kg rice scheme to their parents. At Peddakondur village in Chotuuppal Mandal where there are about 30 brick kilns, they did not have to construct a new building for a school. “Only 16 children from the village are attending the existing panchayat school which has a few teachers and staff. So these 182 brick kiln kids got a ready school to start with,” RDO Suraj Kumar said.

“The kids are happy because they are out of the dust, grime and pollution of the brick kilns for at least five to six hours. They play here also,” said one teacher.

Courtsesy- Indian Express Choutuppal | Published: January 25, 2018 12:12 pm

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Breaking bonds of misery

After years of hardship, migrant labourers from Odisha get a new lease of life

Satya Sunder Barik, The Hindu 

Forty-year-old Buta Rana from Induguda village of Odisha’s Rayagada district was rescued as a bonded labourerfrom Tamil Nadu in 2011. However, he hasn’t migrated outside the State in search of work since.  

It wasn’t as if the rehabilitation assistance of Rs. 20,000 he received in 2012- 2013 under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, was enough to live on in his village for the rest of his life. Buta and 12 otherformer bonded labourers from five families in the village pooled their assistance money and bought four acres of land in 2012-2013. They have been able to meet their food needs from the land since the past three years, besides making some additional income.

Rehabilitation assistance At Muribahal block of Balangir district, 37-year-old Uttar Bagarti and his three family members have forgotten the agonising days at a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu. After their repatriation to Odisha in 2011, they used their rehabilitation assistance as seed investment. They now grow paddy, sunflowers and vegetables in the village and have no reason to migrate to other States anymore.

Buta and Uttar’s stories are not just gloomy tales of migrant labourers from Odisha ending up as bonded labourers. Having learnt a lesson from their torturous experiences, many bonded labourers have started earning livelihoods in their own villages. Every year, about three lakh migrant labourers, including minors, move from the interiors of Odisha to other States in search of work. Between 2010 and 2015, 1,208 labourers, including 500 women and 100 children, were legally freed as bonded labourers from brick kilns in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The State governments then repatriated them to Odisha.

Rukmana Deep, a migrant labourerfrom Badipali village at Bijepur block of Bargarh district, had migrated to Andhra Pradesh to work at a brick kiln in order to repay his hospital bills to the tune of Rs. 20,000. However, his family and he were forced to work in confinement before they were finally rescued by the police and activists in 2012. After he returned home, Rukmana decided to make a living in his native village. He used his financial assistance to invest in both agriculture and weaving. Today, his income from weaving alone has increased to nearly Rs. 20,000 per month. One of his two daughters, also a former bonded labourer, is pursuing higher education at a local college. Rukmana also leads the forum of bonded labourers at Bargarh “There’s nothing wrong in migrating in search for a job. The State government must play the role of a facilitatorto prevent its citizens from being tortured in other States,” said Rukmana.

Activist in action Successful rehabilitation of bonded labourers has been possible thanks to activists helping them access various government schemes including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Indira Awas Yojna, Biju Pucca GharYojana, and the Public Distribution System. “We have been focusing on land-based rehabilitation. Migrant labourers aren’t shy about working in the fields. What they lack is investment. We try to help them access government welfare programmes,” said Umi Daniel, the head Migration information and Resource Centre (MiRC), Aide et Action South Asia, a non-government organisation.

Courtesy: 5/30/2017 Breaking bonds of misery ­ NATIONAL ­ The Hindu­paper/tp­national/breaking­bonds­of­misery/article18596928.ece 5/9

Monday, March 13, 2017

Missing tribal migrant worker returns home - recounts ordeal

Umi Daniel 

Bala Santa, aged 42 year, father Sanya Santa a kondh  belongs to village Padeikund of Asana Gram Panchayat of Kundra Block of Koraput district.  Santa is a  vulnerable poor and has been enrolled as a Antodaya beneficiary and belongs to PVTG( Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group). Due to poverty and indebtedness, Bala Santa and his minor son Muna Santa were trapped by a local labour contractor named Banamali from Jaba padar village in Kundra who  took the father and son to Palakkad in Kerala with a promise of paying an amount of  Rs. 8000 as monthly wage. Both Father and son along with  some labourers left for  Pallakad, Kerala during June 2016. 

After a month of working in the farm in Palakkad, Kerala, Bala Santa was very upset about his wage which was less than that was promised by the middle man. He told his son to go back home with whatever money they had then. But the son said, -they are here to work for 6 months and only after that they will be allowed to leave. However,  Bala Santa was restless and  said he will be returning  home alone. Then one evening with  Rs. 250 in his pocket,  Bala Santa left for the local railway station to board the train to his village -Kundra. He asked some people about the train that goes to Jeypore and finally boarded a train which took him to Jaipur city in Rajasthan. After working for 6 months in the farm land, Muna finally left for Kundra with a meager earning of Rs. 17000 and found that his father had not  returned home and had gone somewhere else instead.  The family was utterly distressed on not being able to find any information regarding the whereabouts of Bala Santa. He was now a missing person and no one knew where he was. 

After six months of his departure from Kerala, on 19th of February 2017, Narayan Saravor Police in Kutch in Gujrat contacted the Kundra Police in Koraput informing that a man named  Bala Santa  claiming to be from Asana Gram Panchayat of Kundra has been caught by BSF on the India-Pakistan internal border in Kutch and has been  handed over to the police. The police found no criminal antecedence in the case, and repeatedly for 15 days followed up with the Kundra Police IIC to help to take the person back. The local media has also reported the case as well. After getting the news, the family members and the villagers have given a written application to the Sub-collector of Jeypore, Tehsildar, Superintendent of Police but as per the victims’ family, no one came for the rescue of the Bala Santa. Moreover, the collector even didn’t allowed the family to have an audience to listen to their grievances says Manu Santa and son of the victim.

Since no one helped the in the case, the victims family approached PRAGATI, the NGO in Koraput who in turn informed the Migration information & Resource centre (MIRC) Aide et Action, Bhubaneswar to help in locate and repatriation of the victim from Gujrat. MiRC, with the help of Setu-Urban and NGO based at Bhuj in Gujrat established contacted the Gujrat police and came to know that the victim has been sent to the judicial custody and lodged in Palara Jail in Kutch district. One of the staff of MiRC, Aide et Action and the son of Bala Santa traveled to Gujrat. After reaching Bhuj, to their surprise found Bala Santa being admitted in a mental hospital in Bhuj due to some abnormal behavior found when he was produced before the SDJM, Dayapar in Kutch district.  Bala Santa was looked terrified, weak and unable to speak anything. However, he could recognize his son and inconsolably cried and requested to take him away and prayed for his repatriate to his village- said Daya Sagar. The rescue team worked hard and with the help of the Gujrat police moved the bail application and finally been able to release the poor Bala Santa in a very awful situation from the mental hospital.  Now he is back in his villages and recounting and recuperating from the trauma and ordeal which he has encountered since last 6 months.

MGNREGA fail to arrest distress migration:

Why the poor tribal and disadvantage people are today resorting to migration in the hilly region of Koraput. In the case of Bala Santa, as per government statistics, he is an Antodaya beneficiary and privileged to be enrolled on priority to access most of the  the government antipoverty programme. Only the wife of Bala is remained at home and his  elder son and his daughter in-law have also migrated to Andhra Pradesh to work in a brick kiln. His family never accessed employment under flagship National rural employment act, MGNREGA. The scheme doesn’t run well in his own Kundra block.  As per the government data for 2016-17, In Kundra block a total of 17,483 Households have got MGNREGA job cards, however,  only 4015 (22%) provided work and oddly only 63 households have provided with 100 days of employment.  On the other hand, the MGNREGA performance in Koraput district is also quite miserable. As per the 2016-17 government data indicate, out of the total 2,92,549 households who were provided job cards under MGNREGA,  93,519 (31%) people accessed MGNREGA  and  as low as 884 ( 0.94%) households have received 100 days of employment. This tells the sorry state of MGNREGA in the district, and due to non availability of rural employment, the tribal and disadvantaged people find migration as a survival strategy. 

Poor implementation of inter-state migrant workers Act of 1979:

As per the government information, in the year 2011, while 91371 registered as inter-state migrant, it has reached 135000 in 2014 in Odisha as a whole. During 2011, 215 people registered as interstate migrant workers in Koraput district and it went up to 295 during 2014 and 13 labour contractors were officially given license under inter-state migrant workers Act of 1979. The registration of workers and issuance of license to the labour contractor is hugely under reported. Since, the district borders with two states namely, Andhra Pradesh on the south and Chhattisgarh in the north and since the poverty and rural unemployment is significantly higher in Koraput district, tribal in these districts are being recruited as migrant labourers and move to various southern and northern districts as manual wage workers.

Bala Santa’s case is an insight for the government to take enough precaution to arrest distress migration in the district. The illiterate, poor and ill informed tribal are being pushed into distress and migrating for just survival. Rural employment followed by social security, food, livelihood, pension and economic security can very well tackle the vulnerability of people to resort distress migration and suffering. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Number of migrant labourers from Odisha rise threefold in 10 years

Number of migrant workers from Odisha to other states is rising steadily. Compared to 55,000 workers migrating from Odisha in 2007, 1.46 lakh left the state in 2015, government figures show.

Social activists working for welfare of the migrants said the actual number of people migrating to other states for works would be far more than the government figures because only a miniscule percentage of them get registered.

According to the government figures, 87,000 seasonal migrant workers left Odisha to other states in 2008, which rose to 1.05 lakh in 2012, 1.2 lakh in 2013 and 1.35 lakh in 2014. Maximum migrants were from the Balangir district all these years (45000 in 2015).

Labour minister Prafull Mallik, in a written reply in the assembly, said the government has been undertaking awareness campaign in 11 migration-prone districts (Bargarh, Balangir, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Sonepur, Ganjam, Gajapati, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Khurda).

The government has deployed special police officers to gather intelligence about illegal migration and check them. Since voluntary migration for works is not illegal, migrants are being registered at the panchayat level to ensure they are not exploited, the minister said. The minister, however, said it would be wrong to say that the migrants were going outside the state due to lack of job avenues in the state.

Umi Daniel, who works for welfare of migrants with a voluntary organisation, said the government figures are only small percentage of the actual volume of migration. "Most migrants don't get registered. Various estimates show highest people from Ganjam migrate for work. However, there number is very low in the government data," Daniel said. According to the government figures, only 4966 labourers from Ganjam migrated outside the state for work.

Times of India TNN | Dec 10, 2016, 04.51 PM IST Printed from BHUBANESWAR: 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

He becomes a bonded labourer, this time by choice

Chandra Dharua with his family at their Badadakla village­home in Tureikela block of Odisha’s Bolangir district. When Chandra Dharua, a 48­year­old man from Odisha’s Bolangir district, was rescued from 22­year­long bondage in Andhra Pradesh three years ago, he had vowed not to look back on a life of torturous ordeal in brick kilns. However, it did not take even one year for his resolve to melt. With government apathy and lack of employment dashing his hopes, he along with his family members has accepted bondage again. Now he is negotiating with labour intermediaries for a better deal (higher debt amount) for migrating to distant places in either Andhra Pradesh or Telengana. Official documents of Medak district, now in Telengana, had identified him and his family members for being bonded labourers for 22 years. However, it has failed to evoke any sympathy for him in his native state of Odisha. In the past three years, Chandra has received only 90 kg of rice, a humanitarian assistance of Rs.900 from the sarpanch of his village and Rs.21,500 out of Rs.48,500 for house building support sanctioned in his name by the State government.

As per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, bonded labourers are entitled for an assistance of Rs.20,000. Both Central and State governments share the amount equally. Since Chandra, his wife and his daughter were rescued from bonded labour, they were entitled to get Rs.60,000. But they have not received anything till now. When asked why he decided to return to a place where a brick manufacturer wanted them to toil under terrible working conditions, he retorted: “Do I have any other option here? I could not plough my 90 decimal of land as I did not have a pair of bullocks. Engagement in agriculture is seasonal. Rest of the year, it is difficult to arrange two square meals a day.” Chandra and his family members had taken an advance (debt) of Rs.60,000 for working eight months from November 2014 to June 2015. Now, he is confident that experience of working extremely long hours without any leave at minimal wage and deftness in making bricks would help him raise advance to Rs.70,000. Despite being aware of torture and low payment in brick kilns and construction sector, thousands of villagers like Chandra have taken advances to fall into bondage. The labour market, which runs into several hundred crores of rupees in several western Odisha districts, is now red hot. Population of labourers migrating annually is likely to increase as deficit monsoon rain had led to drought in major pockets. 9/3/2016 He becomes a bonded labourer, this time by choice. 

As per the Odisha government statistics, 1,35,714 labourers were officially sent through 3,213 registered labour agents between 2011 and 2014. During the same period, 3,113 labourers were rescued. But as per unofficial estimates, the number of labourers migrating to brick kilns annually would touch around 3 lakh. Registers on labour migration maintained by voluntary organisations say that as many as 9,595 children, including school­going students from 301 villages in western districts of Bargarh, Nuapada and Bolangir, had accompanied their parents to other States during 2014­15. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik this week announced his government’s resolve to create 1.62 crore man­days by spending Rs.500 crore under the MGNREGA in face of the looming drought situation. “The announcement on MGNREGA will not be able to hold migrating labourers back. In the past, villagers were tired of seeking jobs under MGNREGA, but the administrative inertia left them in the lurch,” said Daya Sagar Pradhan, an activist who has lived in brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for 10 years and seen the plight of migrant workers from close quarters. 

The Hindu: September 19th 2015 By Satya Sunder Barik

Covid19, migrant workers and state response

Umi Daniel  States that were once ignorant, casual and clueless about migrant workers, are struggling — amid the novel coronavirus di...