Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The nowhere people of Odisha

Umi Daniel

As per 2001 Census, the total population of Odisha is 3.7 crores, out of which 22% people are ST and 16% belong to SC category. Odisha is one of the poorest states in India and 47% of people are living under poverty (BPL survey 1997) but the BPL figure of Odisha may go up if the recent Tendulkar Committee estimates to be believed at 57.2% and N C Saxena Committee calculates it as 84.5%. The 2001, census describe Odisha as a key migration sources states with 937,148 inter-state migration of people. However, informal estimate puts 2.5 million people migrate from Orissa. Out of which the coastal region accounts 45% of the total migration while southern, western and northern poorest district account for 55% migration. The UNDP-HDR report says, 9 lakh migrants are alone in Surat in Gujrat and as per some INGOs study suggest 2 lakh people from western Odisha seasonally migrate to the brick kilns in AP. The migration in the state varies from rural to rural, rural to urban and inter-state migration. The inter-state and inter-district migration considered the high chunk of labour migration.

Migration in Odisha can be classified under five broad categories- they are; (i) Migration due to extreme poverty and destitutions, (ii) Opportunity migration for better wage and livelihood(iii) Migration due to industrial and development induced displacement, (v)Migration due to natural disasters and armed conflict and(vi)migration due to human trafficking.

Poverty and distress induced migration:

The KBK region which constitutes one of the most backward districts of western Odisha and southern Odisha followed by other tribal district in central and northern region has been reporting large scale migration of unskilled people to various states and cities thriving with high economic growth. The single most reason for migration of poor in this region is extreme forms of poverty and chronic hunger followed by denial of basic entitlements such as food, employment and basic services. People also use migration as coping system to escape from hunger, discrimination and abject poverty. While the sending area are predominantly plagued by uneven distribution of resources, backwardness, non remunerative economic activities, high levels of unemployment and a host of social discrimination, the destinations are equally torturous for the poor to eke out their livelihood with dignity and human rights. Today while the Indian economy is growing on a robust scale, the fruit of economy growth is evading the poor who otherwise contributing hugely to the economic progress of the country. As per Prof Arjun Sengupta Committee which was formed to study the working and living condition of the unorganised workers say, 76% of the people in India are earn a daily wage of 20 Rupees and their situation has not changed despite of plethora of schemes and programmes being implemented by the government. The migrants thus find themselves pushed into a state of denial and exploitation at the hands of the owners and labour contractors at the worksites. Their family members’ mostly old, disable, women headed household left in their villages too struggle to live under extreme situation because of denial and lack of access to basic entitlements and services. Rampant corruption and mismanagement of food entitlement in PDS, Antodaya, mid day meal and ICDS in migration prone villages further put the people in object vulnerability and risk of starvation. During February 2010 the Hindustan Times reported 50 cases of starvation deaths in Bolangir and many of the victims were migrants who succumbed to starvation. A cursory observation on the labour laws suggest that, Almost all labour rights protection laws meant for unorganised workers and migrants are violated both at sources and destination and the people thus become unwanted by the state of origin and destinations. The worst suffers are the women and children who face the brunt of non compliance of laws, policies and provisions for better well being, rights and livelihood.

Opportunity migration:

It is always quite complex to distinguish between the distress and opportunity migration. Historically the entire human race has migrated from one place to another place and migration too helped the people to find out a better opportunity and livelihood. Opportunity migration is a combination of “push” and “pull” factors. Informal estimates puts Odia migrant workers in Surat constitute one of the largest at 9 lakh of whom 6 lakh are from Ganjam district alone (UNDP 2007). The coastal region of Odisha is witnessing large scale migration of people to various parts of India to work in catering, hospitality, plumbing, construction, textile, and other allied sectors. Male migration is quite dominating in this region and the remittance coming to the high migration district like, Ganjam, Puri, Nayagarh, Khurda, Jagatsingpur, Kendrapada is staggering 2000 crores per year. However, the living condition, social security and worker welfare at the worksite is almost non existence. There is a complete absent of any government effort in helping the migrant in sending their remittance to their families and the people largely depend on illegal hawala transactions to send money to their homes. The people at the destination are treated as second grade citizes’s and often get soft target of hate campaign perpetuated by the local political organisations. On the other hand HIV prevalence among the migrants in these districts is high in Orissa. The state government yet to take any step to provide support and step out any coordination with the host states for welfare, basic services, social security and food entitlement of the people and their families.

Migration due to industry and development induced displacement:

Walter Fernadez states that, the number of displaced people and project affected people in Odisha was 1.4 million. As per UNDP reports, in the state of Odisha 100,000 families have experienced displacement since independences and about 2 million have been affected in varied degree of displacement on account of development project. In Orissa, according to Walter Fernadez only 35.27% families of the total displaced people have been resettled. Question arises, where the other displaced people have gone? Either they have moved to other district or migrated to other states as wage labourers or their existence has not been recorded in any of the government survyes. Odisha too has experienced the process of secondary displacement and there are instances as how people have been displaced multiple times from their habitations. Due to failure of rehabilitation programme and utter negligence of the authorities to link the IDPs with social security, food entitlement, most of the IDPs have become mobile and resorted to migration to various places. The mindless industrial growth in Odisha and sheer neglect on the agriculture sector resulted large number of small farmers and agriculture worker joining informal labourer force which is multiplying rapidly. The high industrial development is also brining in large chunk of migrants from adjoining states like Chatisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar and at the same time the wellbeing and social security of these in migrants are also being largely ignored. .

Migration due to natural disaster and conflict:

Odisha is prone to a number of natural disasters affecting large number of people both in coast, hilly and agriculture rich regions. While the coastal regions are prone to cyclone the western districts are more vulnerable to drought and famine. In 1999 super cyclone which shattered the people’s livelihood and habitation triggered large scale migration of people to urban locations like Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, Berhampur and other smaller towns. The frequent onset of floods in the delta region of Odisha also has been a triggering factor for short term migration. Moreover, the prolonged drought situations in western Odhisha are believed to be key reason for pushing migration of poor landless agriculture labourers and small farmers to other states.

Besides natural disasters, manmade disaster such as the recent communal riots in Kandhamal in Odisha witnessed large scale migration of people to the cities. Thousands of riot effected people reportedly migrated to Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and also moved to states like Kerala after the riots and still large numbers of people are yet to return to their homes and living under severe distress.

The growing armed conflict between security forces and Maoist cadre in some of the tribal region may push people into the threshold of involuntary mobility. There are speculations that once the conflict escalates and takes an ugly turn the same may trigger off large scale migration of people from their habitation as it happened in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh from where large number of tribal people have been displaced and migrated to Andhra Pradesh.

Migration due to human trafficking:

Data available with the home department, Govt of Odisha says as many as 3,578 women, mostly minor and young girls, remained untraced between 2000 and 2005. The increasing events of women trafficking in Odisha has been a great concern for the government and civil society organisation. According to unofficial sources, girls and women belonging to economically backward sections of the coastal Odisha and the poor of tribal-dominated western Odisha are regularly supplied out of the state. Taking the advantage of their poverty and simplicity, the brokers trap the young women in their net by giving false promises of marriage, job and so on. Sundergarh district is one which tops the list followed by a dozen districts which are major sending area of women trafficking. Similarly, child trafficking is also a major growing concern for the state.

The government response:

The inter-State Migrant Workman Act of 1979 was enacted with a reference to the Dadan system (debt migration) of Orissa. While the migrant labourers are contributing hugely to the state economic in terms of remittance of more than 3000 crore, and a thriving business of labour market and illegal recruitment of women for sex work, the government is yet to ponder on the issue and come up strict regulatory and enforcement measures. The enforcement authorities at the district such as department of labour and police and Department Women and Children, Department of Education, Department of Civil supplies hardly have any clue or data about the movement of people.

In the process of human mobility, the migrants are left out from grassroots governance process and stay away from Gram Sabha, General Elections, poverty survey and the ongoing Census operations and UID ( Unique Identification) is going to bypass lakhs of migrant unaccounted. During 2005, the Govt of Odisha has opened a special migration cell in Kesinga in Kalahandi being headed by an ALC (Assistant Labour Commissioner) later being abandoned callously without any valid reason. In the past, thousands of hapless peoples includes women, children and labourers were rescued in distress from various states are yet to be rehabilitated by the administration. One of pioneering work which the government in the past has done to prevent child migration through running Community Care Centres in Bolangir and Nuapada by the SSA is today being neglected and needs revival.

Undoubtedly, the MNREGA and the array of food entitlement have the necessary element of reducing distress migration and poverty. While, the MNREGS can provide gainful employment and create livelihood assets, food security will be met from the food entitlements. However, it all depend whether the administration gears up the programme and target it to address the distress situations. Till today, most of the programmes are in state of despair and yet to fulfil its key objectives. While the MNREGS average employments in Odisha are 34 days and undergoing serious non compliances, the key food and social security schemes are gasping under the bureaucratic and political wrongs.

Trafficking of women and children are another area which needs adequate attention by the State. Despite, there are laws to curb illegal women trafficking, strict vigilance, monitoring and enforcement of law and political will somehow lacking in tackling the issues with effective collaboration with the civil society organisations.

The government of India under its National Disaster Management Authority clearly laid down guidelines for effective response and disaster management. All most every State today has a policy, plans and infrastructure towards mitigation and reduction of disasters and its effects. The disaster risk reduction (DRR) mandate of the government is a well articulated step towards making the community disaster resilient. It is often observed that, due to lack of preparedness and adequate relief and rehabilitation, poor people tend to move out to safer places and become vulnerable to migrate to far-flung areas. Hence, timely response and rehabilitation help the people to overcome the shocks of disasters. The impact of climate change on farmer, fishing communities and the forest dwelling communities will further alienate from their traditional livelihood and make them vulnerable to migrate to sustain their livelihood. It is imperative that the government need to be sensitised and make relevant plans to address the situations through proper mitigation and adaptation measures.

Migration sometime regarded as alternative livelihood for the people. Due to rapid industrialisation and infrastructure building, there is a huge demand and need for skilled person power requirement in various sectors. The government has set up National Employment Mission to train and upgrade various skills of people who will be engaged on a huge scale. However, the poor labour standards, deplorable living and exploitative working condition making the poor more vulnerable and poor. The huge remittance which the migrants are sending today need to be streamlined by the government for effective management of remittance.

And finally, the migrant who are outside of the realm of social security, food security and various labour welfare measurers should be adequately addressed. Both the sending states and the receiving states need to have a proper coordination to create win-win situation for the migrants.

Civil society and NGO response:

Over the years, the role of media in highlighting the migration and women trafficking issue in Odisha is quite encouraging. Often both the print and electronic media has been quite vocal on the plights of migrant workers. Small but significant intervention by NGOs and activist in addressing migration at the sources area through alternative registration, linking with government entitlements, schooling for the migrant children, collaborative work at the destination for the rights of migrants, prevention and recue of migrant labourer, trafficked women are quite productive and needs up scaling.

However, much more need to be done by the civil society in engaging both at the micro and policy level to bring in quality changes in the lives of poor and marginalised who are increasingly becoming invisible.

Key recommendation:

  • Registration of migrant labourer is essential to regulate and monitor the outflow and inflow of migrant labour at both source and destination states. Special identity cards should be provided to migrant people by local panchayats.
  • Strict regulation and monitoring of middleman engaged in labour trading should be done by the enforcement agency.
  • Special effort need to be taken to enrol all migrant in the ongoing National Census 2010 and provision of UID which will entail the migrant all social security and food entitlements at all places.
  • Access to food entitlement and employment under MNREGA to be prioritise to address distress and provide employment to people during lean period and prior and after the migration season.
  • The left-out family members of migrants need to be covered under all food rights entitlements and social security programme on priority and protected from hunger and starvation.
  • The State government at the source area in the destination states, district administration at the district should take steps to provide subsidies rice, MDM, ICDS and other social security entitlement to the migrants at the worksites. Better wage and good working condition is a must.
  • Migration of children of school going age needs to be restricted through opening of seasonal hostels to continue education at the sources area and special bridge education programme at the worksites.
  • Special monitoring cell to prevent women and child trafficking in the states should be taken on priority. Adequate social and economic rehabilitation should be taken up for the all rescued trafficked women, men and children.
  • The disaster prone area should have contingent plans for effective rehabilitation and resettlement measures to prevent people from migration and getting trafficked.
  • Training programme on Employment, Entrepreneurial skill development skill and Capacity building process to be undertaken for the migrant youths.
  • Immediate revision of Inter-State Migrant Workman Act of 1979 should be done with adequate provision for protection of migrants’ rights and penal provision for the offenders.
  • Creation of Inter-state government migration coordination cell between the host and source state should be envisaged to monitor, regulate and facilitate safe and protected migration.
  • Effective disaster management response and mitigation to arrest exodus of people. Special plans for mitigating and adapting to the climate change related disasters induced migration.
  • Special programme should be envisaged to provide care and support to the migrant affected and infected by HIV and AIDs.
  • A special labour welfare board for the Migrant should be constituted for the welfare and social security of migrant labourers and their families.

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