Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Response on affordable housing in the Union #Budget2018

Blog by Nivedita Jayaram and Sangeeth S, Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions, Aajeevika Bureau.

The Union Budget announced a fund for Affordable Housing, and committed to provide assistance for building 3.7 million housing units in urban areas in 2018-19 under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (#PMAY). However, this does little to resolve the housing crisis in Indian cities, which affects its poorest and most marginalised populations.

Urban development and housing policies and programmes remain disconnected from India’s socio-economic reality of growing rural-urban migration for work, where 100 million, or 1 out of 10 Indians are seasonal circular migrant labour. These mobile and temporary populations of labourers are on constant flux, moving between their source villages and different urban work destinations. Earning less than a living wage, they are unable to afford housing even in the slum settlements of the cities, resorting instead to live in the open, in shared rented rooms in deplorable conditions or within the worksite.

In Ahmedabad city*, which is one of the largest and growing urban work destinations for migrant workers, there are over 2,500 families living on pavements, under flyovers, near railway tracks or in open grounds. More than 40,000 workers live in highly congested rented rooms, marked by squalor and disease, with more than 15 workers occupying a room that is not more than 8×10 in area. A large section of workers live in the city’s industrial peripheries, within the factories where they work, forced to sleep between machines, on the shop floor where they face numerous hazards. Ahmedabad demonstrates that in the economic growth centres of the city, more than a 6th of the population can comprise migrant labour, who contribute immensely to economic growth, but remain excluded from urban housing solutions.

Housing for All by 2022 will be nothing more than a rhetoric, and India’s urban housing crisis will only aggravate further if the government fails to listen to the needs of the most marginalised cross sections of its urban populations.

*These figures are based on Aajeevika Bureau’s ongoing study on housing conditions of seasonal labour in Ahmedabad city.

Please look out for Aajeevika Bureau’s full article on this topic, to be published in the Wire. 

International Migrants’ Day at Aajeevika Bureau, Netaji Nagar office

Blog post by Nisha Bharti Aajeevika Bureau
International Migrants Day was celebrated at Aajeevika Bureau’s Netaji Nagar office on Sunday the 17th of December, when some workers have a day off. This first of its kind event was attended by more than 30 workers. Workers engaged in different sectors from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and some districts of Maharashtra participated in celebrating the evening. They work in jeans-dyeing units, garment-manufacturing units, electronic waste units, at construction sites and more.
The occasion was very unique because the photographs taken by workers themselves under the theme ‘Bade Shehar ki Choti Kahaniyaan,’ or ‘Small Stories of Big Cities’, were on display in this photo exhibition. Our purpose was to get the workers opinion and rationale behind capturing the image. All the workers present in the room were asked to choose a picture on display which they liked the most and they were asked to give a reason behind their choice.
Pictures on display were representative of the working conditions under which a large number of workers in informal sector are employed in a city like Mumbai. Mr. Altaf Khan took a photograph of a sanitation worker who was about to enter the choked drain. One of the workers said that ‘the supervisor of this man did not provide pair of gloves and boots to him. It is really dangerous to enter the drain without these two things’. The picture taken by Mr. Wahad Khan also incited lots of discussion. He photographed a person who was going somewhere with a bundle of wire on his head. Participants said that, ‘the wires make a very heavy bundle. One can get his neck and shoulder injured if he does not lift it properly or if the person does not use proper cushioning on head’.
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Pictures by Mujib Khan, Omkar Gupta, Gokul Sharma and Ramchandra prajapati also helped workers in reflecting upon their working condition. Most of the participants raised the concern that workers shown in pictures must take responsibility for their safety. They should use gloves, footwear, and glasses. Participants were very clear that they all should be careful while working, and safety at the workplace is very important.

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Pictures from Aajeevika Bureau

Gearing up for migrant inclusive development: The road ahead for India

Blog post from Benoy Peter, Executive Director, CMID

Migration has been a major means of social emancipation the world over. It has also been a survival strategy for millions. With the advancements in connectivity, sources and destinations have become significantly closer. However, more and more barriers complicate transnational movement of people. Increasingly, migration is at the centre of global politics. Brexit, Nitaquat and rising popularity of anti-migrant right wing parties in several western countries, point towards this xenophobia. In addition to poverty and conflicts, climate change has also evolved as a trigger for significant movement of people within and beyond their country of residence.

We witnessed more crossings and sizeable increase in the number of deaths and missing cases in the Mediterranean during this decade. Forced displacement peaked; the number of unaccompanied minors crossing borders increased substantially during the recent years. Migrants who aspired to reach Europe got trapped and were auctioned like commodities in Libya. The world even witnessed an attempt of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

With the growing concerns, the attention and responses to migration have also been evolving. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have brought in more attention to the issues of migrants. Although the United States have moved away from it, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2016 endorses the global commitment towards addressing the challenges faced by refugees and migrants.

The developing world, particularly the Asian region is also witnessing unprecedented growth in migratory moves. With the largest number of international migrants in the recent years, India ranked first among the countries receiving remittances in 2016. Besides, India is destination for millions of migrants from neighbouring countries, particularly from Nepal and Bangladesh. The country also hosts refugees from more than five countries although not a signatory to major international conventions related to refugees.

India is also one of the countries with the largest absolute number of internally displaced people worldwide. The disparities in regional development in the country also result in millions of Indians migrating to destinations within the country for work. Evidence indicate that migration has also been a coping strategy for internal migrants to adapt to climate change. The native Assamese who have been historically the most sedentary in India now travel several thousands of kilometres to work down south in Kerala. There have been several established corridors of labour migration in the country and many more are evolving.

There is considerable lack of clarity on the estimates of people who migrate within the country, who comprise the largest proportion of migrants. The available information suggests significant presence of people from Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and other minorities among the labour migrants who take up the precarious jobs ignored by the natives in urban India or in the states that are demographically advanced. Mapping the conflicts, floods, droughts, cyclones and other disasters in the country can help portray the sources areas of internal migration to a certain extent. Single women, senior citizens and families also travel thousands of kilometres out of their struggle for survival. The southern Indian states are evolving as major destinations for migrant workers from the rest of India, due to a host of determinants.

The International Migrants Day is an opportunity for us to reflect upon how India is prepared to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ensuring a migrant inclusive agenda. There is more competition for the international migrants from India at the destinations and newer challenges are likely to emerge in the GCC countries to which there is significant migration from India. The treatment of Rohingya issue by Government of India in the recent times is a matter of concern when it comes to those who cross borders as their lives are threatened. Migration has been a political issue in states such as Assam or Maharashtra. Vulnerabilities of internal migrants, particularly those in the informal sector continue to remain high even in states with considerable social development. Migrants’ access to social protection is limited across the country. Ensuring decent wages, housing and working conditions, food security, access to legal aid, financial inclusion, access to quality healthcare, access to education for children of migrant workers, etc. still continue to be major challenges. Human trafficking continues to be another challenge. So do forced labour and child labour.

There is only limited data available on internal migration in the Indian context. Census data which does not reflect much the real migration situation and gets dated by the time it reaches those who need it. Final data on migration from 2011 Census is yet to be released as we are about to enter 2018. Work place research in the case of migrants, particularly those in vulnerable job settings is challenging. The proposed draft labour codes by Department of Labour have already seeded uncertainties among the already vulnerable workers in the unorganised sector.  Lessons from academic research is largely confined to paid use and very few think tanks in India focus on migration. Serious public policy deliberations on migration are also rare given the limited interest and expertise within the country.

Interventions among migrants too are far from the actual requirement. Migration is also not a donor priority in the Indian context. Although there are exceptions, the capacities of civil society organisations in India are also limited in responding the various needs of migrants. While there are sporadic efforts such as the migrant collectives raising their demand during the recent Gujarat elections, by and large the migrant workers remain excluded from the collective bargaining power of trade unions even in states which are known for the strong presence of trade unions.

Migrants including refugees and internally displaced are one of the most vulnerable communities who are generally left behind in the discourse of development as the lessons learned from pursuing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reveal. India’s achieving the SDGs by 2030 calls for immediate attention to the issues of migrants and placing migration at the centre of policy dialogues. Government of India alone cannot address the issues given the complexities and scale of efforts involved. This International Migrants Day is a wakeup call for India to trigger and gear up a collective response of the government, the civil society, academia, bilateral and multilateral organisations, private sector and other key stakeholders towards migrant inclusive development through public policy dialogues on migration, focussed attention on gathering more evidence, leveraging more funds, creating and strengthening platforms and coalitions, piloting and scaling up innovative interventions, documenting as well as disseminating good practices with meaningful involvement of those who migrate and those who are left behind during migration.


Zero accidents and diseases at workplace: Workshop by IED at Odisha

Post by Bimal Sahu, former Insurance Commissioner, ESIC, Ministry of Labour.

A half day workshop on “Empowering Workers & Entrepreneurs on Safety, Security & Skill Development By Educating Women and Children that Zero Accident & Disease At Workplace Is Possible” organized by Institute Of Entrepreneurship Development(IED), Bhubaneswar on 30th July, 2017.

With objectives of sensitising workers and entrepreneurs including students on Safety, Social Security & Skill Development with focus on ” Zero Accidents & Disease At Workplace Is Possible”. About 60 persons from workers, Entrepreneurs and mainly MBA students from IED participated in this 3 hours programme. 

The workshop was inaugurated by Mr. Amar Satpathy, Chief Whip of Odisha Government along with Mr. Samarendra Sahu, Director General of IED, Odisha, Mr. B. Sekar, AGM of Indian Bank, Bhubaneswar, Mr. Madan Dhal, Vice President, INTC, Mr. Ramesh Behera, Assistant Director representing Chief Inspector Factories, besides myself. All speakers stressed on the importance of Zero Accident & Disease At Workplace which was further highlighted by MR. Amar Satpathy, hon’ble Chief Guest who wanted that Odisha should benefit from such programme to minimize if not eliminate accidents in factories in the state. He also extended his support  for the proposed symphosium of DGUV along with labour department, Govt. Of Odisha in November 2017.

In the inaugural session, a pocket size booklet (second edition) was released by the Chief Guest which was distributed to all the participants. The technical sessions were handled by myself with presentation on “Safety, Social Security & Skill Development”, Mr. Ramesh Behera on safety education along with a safety video which was very educative and by Mr. Madan Dhal as a trade union- spoke about the importance of safety, social security & skill development and lauded the efforts of DGUV and Focal Point Office for taking up  such programmes. The CEO of the institute stressed for more co-operation between the institute and DGUV on good practices in future,as proposed by me for having an MoU for creating a centre of excellence supported by BG / DGUV which will strengthen the co-operation activity in India.

The workshop concluded with a stress management session by Mr. Panda to keep a balanced life for Entrepreneurs & Workers with practical demonstration of safety tips including road accidents etc to save lives. The workshop ended with working lunch for all the participants and Guests.


1) By educating particularly students of management, it will greatly help future entrepreneurs to benefit productivity & profitability in the long run.

2) Scope for future co-operation with institute like IED, Govt. Of Odisha for creating a centre of excellence for which your discussion with XLRI may please be referred. This proposal may please be examined at your level for further necessary action.

3) The release of pocket size booklet was another landmark- containing tips and essential informations involving Safety, Social Security & Skill Development.

Smart City, Smart Scavengers through Safety, Social Security & Skill Development

Post by Bimal Sahu, former Insurance Commissioner, ESIC, Ministry of Labour.

Recently, newspapers reported the unfortunate and sad news about the death of 4 scavengers of Delhi Muncipal Corporation while cleaning safety tanks in the city. This was preceded by similar occurrence involving scavengers in cities like Chennai and Chandigarh. As per report available through media sources, 39 scavengers have lost their lives while performing the job of cleaning safety tanks etc to keep the cities smart and clean during the last 100 days.

Talk on ‘Low-skilled migration and precarious work – Where do the borders of forced migration begin and end?’

In this talk, Priya Deshingkar will draw on research conducted in different locations in Africa and Asia, including India, to draw out the conditions in which low-skilled migrants are recruited and employed and the contrasting discourses on their experience. In doing so, she will highlight the often complex and contradictory outcomes of migration and the difficulties this creates for dichotomies of forced and free labour. She will also discuss the policy implications of these findings.

For more info go on this link- http://bit.ly/2oCh1nJ

Discovering Our Voices: Agrasar

Women’s day was celebrated with full vigor and vitality. An interactive session was facilitated by our cheerful young leader in making Sonam Singh, a Societymaker team member.  The women gathered  together, flipped through the pages of history of women’s  day celebration. We gained insights into why we celebrate it today and the root of its origin. And this we was not it, we reflected and shared instances of why we still need to celebrate such a day.

Workshop on ‘Labour Migration and Social Change in South Asia’

Though the movement of people in pursuit of work is not new, labour migration appears to be a growing phenomenon in the South Asian region. Empirical studies and papers analysing government data have shown that migration is not a simple movement from village to city in this region, but involves multiple streams and patterns including short-term, iterative, permanent and return migration across short and long distances. This workshop explores aspects that link human mobility and social transformation in sending and receiving communities, especially in the context of labour migration.

Organised by the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and the French Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities (CSH) as well as supported by the Tata Trusts’ SHRAMIC initiative, this workshop has been conceived as a platform for young researchers, scholars and practitioners to share their work and receive feedback from experienced and knowledgeable experts. The 15-odd papers being presented have been selected from over 70 entries in response to a call for papers in December 2016 and represent the work of young researchers across the South Asia region.

Read more at – http://bit.ly/2nQLGeh

The Story of Ravi Bharti

This morning I asked one person engaged in painting work in my Social Science Research Institute at Allahabad who among you all are most poor. He immediately replied all are poor. This proved they are not Economists or Statisticians.

The Story of Nanka

Nanka is Nanka Bharti aged around 35 with a wife, two sons and a daughter. Naka works as a non-agricultural labourer in and around the city of Allahabad as and when engaged by the local sub-contractor under the multiple core contractors in the city. Nanka is a Dalit, his wife remains engaged as a domestic assistant, his sons are in studies and daughter just entered into the first step in school – it is Anganwadi school.