Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Community Life of Migrants?

Slowly but steadily I have started learning why do people live community life, not all people together obviously but cross sections by region-caste-language and so on. My initial idea was it was for the poor and people engaged at the lowest segment of the labour market showing labourers living together in I-shape cluster of rooms called labour colonies (local names differ like Line Baari (Rooms arranged in I-shape with common Varanda for cooking in sub-urban areas of Calcutta) or the slum dwellers and pavement/railway platform dwellers. Sanitation is a non-question for the latter. The recent research work of one of my students on the Labour Chaurahas (labour squares) in the million-plus populated cities in Uttar Pradesh brought out glaringly the outcome for the migrants standing on crossing of major roads that could get converted into labour market on demand from labour contractors for manual labour on daily basis
Now I understand it is also for Muslims, for Bengali in regions outside West Bengal and by stretch of imagination, or in actuality, little India as one calls it in countries outside India. So community living takes different character at sub-national level and at national level. As soon as one is outside India the narrow linguistic boundaries wither away and they live like Indians.
I was a little bit hesitant two decades back to express myself as a Bengali though I had no communicative power in Hindi when I shifted to Allahabad from Calcutta/Kolkata. Some of the enthusiastic people used to tell me about the presence and often assertive significant Bengali community in Allahabad and mostly at the top of the labour market. Now after two decades I understand the necessity of being a member in a group by language, caste, religion and so on. It empowers or at least protects one in the feudal frame. I say feudal frame for many of what happen (including what does not happen) where I am now since past two decades are based on personal preferences delinked from post-Newtonian logic. Belief of the powerful by birth becomes logic here in major regions of India.
Migrants are vulnerable in general for several reasons. Also migrants have to contribute more in relative terms. But that is no guarantee that the vulnerability is offset by higher productivity of the migrant labourers; this is because feudal nuisance value is productivity-neutral. Acknowledged higher productivity has a strength for the elevation of the migrant in the job ladder so that the local parochial-minded remain concerned. That the productivity of the migrant has to be higher to compensate institute’s or organization’s lost contribution for feeding the locals and that the higher contribution of the migrant will not be acknowledged what is in standard literature is vaguely acknowledged as migrant labour subsidizing the labour market. My observation is a little bit away from it. In the organized sector the migrant is perhaps paid no less excepting the rejection of moving up the ladder. In complex division of labour however it is not easy to estimate who contributes what. …. For the migrants it becomes a case of constrained optimization – multiple constrains. These are not necessarily person specific; it may be linked to if the migrant will get a house on rent based on his caste/religion/marital status.

Bhaskar Majumdar

Bhaskar Majumdar

Bhaskar Majumder is at present Professor of Economics in G.B. Pant Social Science Institute. Previously he served as Professor and Head of the Centre for Development Studies, Central University of Bihar, Patna. He got his Graduation, Master's Degree, M. Phil., Ph.D., all in Economics, from the University of Calcutta. He is engaged in teaching and research for more the past 39 years in Calcutta, Allahabad and Patna in a number of Institute and Universities.
Professor Majumder has written and published so far nine books on social sector. He has authored so far sixty nine research papers in around twenty referred journals. In addition, he has contributed thirty chapters in books on social sciences, apart from several review articles for journals and magazines, plus publications in national and international Conference proceedings. He has so far completed 23 research projects sponsored and supported by World Bank, Ministry of Rural Development (GoI), Planning Commission, ICSSR (GoI), Industries including NTPC and Tata Chemicals. Many students got D.Phil. from the University of Allahabad under his supervision.
Bhaskar Majumdar

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