Bhopal: Only 11% of migrant labourers who returned to Madhya Pradesh in the first wave of COVID-19-induced lockdown received financial aid of Rs 1,000 transferred by the state government while many received less amount in their bank accounts, reveals a survey report conducted on over 3,000 migrant labourers.
The report titled 'The Indian Catastrophe: MP Migrants' Crisis Amidst COVID-19' was prepared by the Madhya Pradesh Migrant Volunteer Team in collaboration with the Zenith Society for Socio-Legal Empowerment. It reveals that 88.5% of the migrant labourers did not receive the financial aid of Rs 1000 announced by the state government for migrant labourers in the lockdown.
The survey included 2,858 respondents and was carried out between September 2020 to December 2020 by over 75 volunteers on migrant workers who returned to Madhya Pradesh from Maharashtra during the mass migration that took place in the first wave of the pandemic in India.
The 113-page report highlights the poor implementation of government schemes and initiatives like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Job card, financial aid, etc. At the same time, it also praised the government for its efforts in bringing migrant labourers back to the state.
According to the State Labour Department data, 7.5 lakh workers returned to the state in the first wave and over 45,000 in the second wave. They were helped with job cards, work under MGNREGA, Ayushman Bharat Health card, admission of their children in government schools and vaccinations. Besides, Rs 177 crore was transferred to 8.85 lakh registered construction labourers in the first phase and Rs 110 crore to 11.28 lakh labourers in the second phase.
The survey report, however, suggests otherwise. As per the findings of the report, out of 2,512 respondents, only 42 people got jobs under government schemes like MGNREGA, PM Rozgar Setu and Employment Generation scheme. All the beneficiaries in the survey are male.
As far as transportation is concerned, 57% of total respondents claimed that they returned by train, while 28% returned via bus and other modes of transportation arranged by the state government. 12.5% of labourers said that they returned on foot. The report outlined that no food and water was supplied to them during the government-funded mode of transportation. Many women migrant labourers alleged sexual harassment during the journey and faced problems during menstruation owing to the lack of sanitary pads and food.
The report also mentions the caste, gender and age group of the migrant labourers.
It says that around 34% of the respondents belonged to the General category, followed by 31% belonging to the Other Backward Class (OBC) category, while 15% of the respondents were from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and another 15% identified themselves as Scheduled Tribes (STs).
92% of the total respondents in the survey were males and 8% were females. 4 respondents preferred not to disclose their gender. As many as 83% of the respondents belonged to the working-age group of 15 to 34 years. Within that, the highest number (around 45%) fell in the range of 25 to 34 years.
During the survey, respondents claimed that they came back with the hope to spend the rest of their lives in Madhya Pradesh. 53% claimed that they will not migrate if they can make both ends meet in their home state. But, ironically, out of 2830 respondents, 947 re-migrated for employment to Maharashtra and other parts of the country.
Out of 2,700 respondents, 40% work in the infrastructure development sector, 20% in manufacturing and repair, 14% in the service sector and 10% in labour. The report also says that the wage of the labourers has declined.
"Our sole purpose of the survey was to take a look at government schemes announced for the labourers and migrant workers. We found glaring loopholes in their implementation," said Rohit Sharma, a volunteer of Madhya Pradesh Migrant Volunteer Team which prepared the report.
"Our aim is to convey the findings of the report to the government so that officials can take corrective measures to fix these loopholes," he added.
Sachin Sinha, Principal Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Labour Department, commented on the report, saying, "Close to 8 lakh migrant workers and labourers returned to the state during the two waves of the pandemic and 287 crores were transferred into their bank accounts. They were provided various modes of transportation, shelters, treatment, job cards and vaccination."
He further said, "In a bid to provide employment to labourers, the state government is coming up with a dedicated job portal for skilled and unskilled labourers 'e-marketplace (employment portal)' and linking it with NITI Aayog's Unnati portal and state government's employment portal. It will be a unique and only job portal dedicated for the labourers where they can easily find jobs based on their skill across the country."