Kerala welcomes migrants workers

Subject : Working Conditions | Source(s) : NewClick | Date : 26-Apr-2018

A study by the Ernakulam-based Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID) found that during 2016-17, there were migrants from 194 districts across 25 states and Union Territories working in Kerala. More than four-fifths of these districts belong to the eight states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam. The migrants included single women and girls, senior citizens and families. Murshidabad in West Bengal is one of the major sources of migration to Kerala. The CMID research on the labour dynamics of migration showed that the main areas, from where workers come to Kerala, are also known for floods, cyclones, droughts and conflicts. The study observed: “Exceptionally high wage rates compared to the rest of India, sustained job opportunities, comparatively peaceful social environment, relatively less discriminatory treatment of workers, presence of significant others, direct trains from native states, the ease with which money can be transferred home and the penetration of mobile phones that shortened the distance from their homes were found to have influenced the migration to Kerala.” Journalists who, as part of an Inter-state Media Study Tour, travelled recently to the ISM hubs of Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Palakkad, saw that while these migrants have been accepted as an inevitable part of Kerala society, their presence poses many challenges. The media tour was to provide an idea of the government’s responses to these challenges by way of policies, strategies and schemes. Some of the schemes have been commended for being the first such in the country and, perhaps, even in SAARC. Sree Lal, Regional Joint Labour Commissioner, told the visiting journalists in Ernakulam that construction, hospitality, plantation, iron and steel, wooden furniture, marine fishing, mining and quarrying, plywood, textile and apparel, seafood and footwear are the major sectors employing a large number of migrant workers. From January 2018, the government has given effect to a unique health insurance scheme for migrant workers called ‘Aawaz’. Mr Lal said that this first-of-its-kind scheme in India provides the worker free medical treatment up to Rs 15,000. Their work entails arduous physical labour and they are at high risk of accidents, injuries and even death. Along with health insurance, the worker gets accident death claim coverage of Rs 2 lakh. Till end of March, nearly two lakh workers have registered in the scheme. Another scheme of the Kerala Government, ‘Apna Ghar’ aims to provide good quality, hygienic and safe living space at affordable rent. The Apna Ghar project we saw at Kanjikode in Palakkad is a hostel for 620 migrants spread over 44,000 sq ft. Each of the 62 rooms can accommodate 10 persons and the rent is Rs 800 per month. The hostel is well provided: 32 kitchens with cooking facilities, eight mess areas, 96 toilets, four common bathrooms with showers on each floor, round-the-clock security and spaces for recreation, rest and sports. The construction seems as good as those in top educational institutions. Project Officer Niranjan Nair said that the Apna Ghar scheme is being extended to other areas where ISM workers are concentrated. Three new schemes of about 1,000 beds each are coming up in the districts of Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram. Mr Subhash TV, Director of Information & Public Relations said that studies showed Kerala to be one of the most promising destinations for migrant workers from the major states known for out-migration. Given Kerala’s labour shortage, this migration is only likely to increase, he added. According to a 2013 study of the Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation – made available by the Department of Labour and Skills – there are over 25 lakh migrant workers in Kerala, from not only other states, but also Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2016, migrant workers were reckoned to be 40 lakh with an annual arrival rate of 2.35 lakh. By 2023, the migrant workforce could rise to 48 lakh, i.e. 15 per cent of Kerala’s population in 2011 (33 million). Kerala’s Labour Minister T P Ramakrishnan told the visiting journalists that the ISMs called “guest workers” are “very much part of our society.” He mentioned Kerala State Literacy Mission’s “second revolution” – the Changathi scheme to teach Malayalam to these guest workers. Changathi means friend in Malayalam. Ramakrishnan said that there is no discrimination against the guest workers and everything is being done to ease their integration in the state’s economic and social culture. The larger aim of the Changathi programme is to ensure that they do not feel alienated. By first learning to speak and then being taught to read and write in Malayalam, they would be able mingle and move about more freely with the people of the state. He said that Kerala needed the labour in-migration and it was implementing migrant-inclusive policies and programmes. “The inclusion of migrant workers is a collective responsibility and not that of the government alone,” Mr Ramakrishnan said. Even in Kerala, despite the government’s proactive measures for the welfare of migrants, they do experience harassment and exploitation. All sections of society in Kerala need to be made aware and sensitised that the migrant workforce is pivotal to the state’s economy; and, that a people who have benefited as migrant labour elsewhere must embrace and ensure a place for migrants in their own state. As much as economic development, Kerala’s human development also is dependent on how quickly the migrant population is integrated, educated, empowered and enabled to attain a standard of living in keeping with the state’s present level of development. The migrants, who see their future in Kerala, may well determine Kerala’s future.

Link : https://newsclick.in/kerala-shows-way-embracing-migrant-workers

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