Migrant Labourers: Research On The Crisis And Way Forward

India’s nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis forced millions of migrant labourers to walk hundreds of kilometres back home to their villages – some dying during the course of the journey. Below is a list of the survey and research reports on the state of the migrant population and the response of various states and the national government to give us an inkling of the dire situation and the nature of solutions required to address them. 

  1. 32 Days and Counting: COVID-19 Lockdown, Migrant Workers, and the Inadequacy of Welfare Measures in India: The Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) has been actively responding to the crisis of migrant labourers across the country since the 27th of March. They ask: “Only when we earn will we even be able to go home right? They also said, “Andar rahenge toh bhi marenge, bahar jayenge toh bhi marenge.” (“If we stay inside they will beat us, if we go outside also they beat us”). You can read more of their experiences in the report here.
  1. Voices of the Invisible Citizens: A Rapid Assessment on the Impact of COVID-19 Lockdown on Internal Migrant Workers: A research team from Jan Sahas conducted telephonic interviews with 3,196 migrant construction workers from North and Central India. The research shows a dismal picture of negligence and apathy. Labourers raise the question: “How long can volunteers and charity groups sustain us?” It shows that the majority of the workers were daily wage earners, many were stuck in the city with no access to food, water and money, nearly all of them didn’t have a worker’s identity card. You can read the full report here.
  1. Report of the working group on migration: This 2017 report has the recommendations of the Working Group on Migration that was setup by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. It aims to try and build on the existing frameworks, to urge the implementation of many relatively progressive statutory provisions and government schemes. The report covers: issues faced by migrants in relation to work; access to social protection and public services for migrants; access to housing and discussion of data on migration. It also makes recommendations on how to prevent situations, like the one we witnessed in March 2020. Read the full report here.
  1. The COVID-19, Migration and Livelihood in India: A report written by International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai for policy makers. It presents research on the situation and aims to discuss how deepening our understanding of migration and livelihood could be helpful in designing a mitigating strategy of economic and social impact of COVID-19. Some of the pertinent questions raised by the report: “How to provide food and basic amenities at camps/shelters by maintaining better hygiene and sanitation to all of them (soap/ water/ toilet/ waste management)? How to provide basic health care and preventive kits (like mask, sanitisers, and gloves etc.)?” To learn more read the full report here.
  1. Unlocking the Urban: Reimagining Migrant Lives in Cities Post-COVID 19: This report by Aajeevika Bureau contains their analysis of the pre-covid survey of migrants living in Surat. It showcases how migrant labourers were already leading very precarious lives and the lockdown pushed them further into distress:“To fully understand their current predicament, it needs to be stressed that the pandemic did not fully cause this, but aggravated long-standing, existing vulnerabilities”. The report addresses the social, spatial and infrastructural situation together while discussing the political economy as well as citizenship rights of migrants. Read the full report here.