Mumbai: A rapid survey done by four independent organisations on the condition of migrant workers in Gujarat and Maharashtra has suggested several measures that could be taken to ease the situation.
The rapid survey, done by theCentre for Labour Research (CLRA), Habitat Forum (Inhaf), Mashal and sociology department of Savitribai Phule University, Pune was done between April 23 and May 1,on issues related to stranded labours, migrants and workers in the unorganised sector.
Among the key findings, the report said most workers hadAadhaarcards but compared to that, very few had bank accounts or ration cards.
Only 60% labourers in Maharashtra had bank accounts, while in Gujarat 54% had bank accounts. Ration card in Maharashtra are with around 58% of workers, while in Gujarat, 57% said they had ration cards..Around 95% workers in Maharashtra and 97% in Gujrat said they had Aadhaar cards.
Employment and wages were uncertain in both states. As per the findings, labourers not being paid during the lockdown were 59% in Maharashtra and 92% in Gujarat. Almost 61% labourers in Gujarat also complained about the change in behaviour of employers after lockdown.
In Maharashtra this scale is around 33%. Also another 12% reported that their employers were not providing them help during lockdown.
The survey also found that relief assistance to labourers was being provided primarily by NGOs and focused on food ration. Almost 47% labourers in Maharashtra said they received no help from government. The scale in Gujrat was about 35%.
Almost 30% workers in Gujrat and 5% in Maharashtra have gone back to their native places. Of those who are in their workplace, 76% from Gujarat and 42% from Maharashtra wanted to return home.
The organisations have also made some important recommendations.
Some of these are:
1. Looking at the lack of ration cards, universalise the public distribution system.
2. Also, since a large number of labourers have no bank accounts, direct cash relief should be provided at the doorstep of workers.
3. Till now the assistance for the labourers has come in the form of food but now it needs to be shifted to cooking fuel, water and personal protective equipment or PPE.
4. Governments should leverage NGO workers. Government assistance has not reached a large number of workers, mainly in Gujarat, where NGOs and other similar bodies are doing better work than government. So, states should support the vast network of NGOs and workers unions.
5. Support and protect the workers' rights, especially in the light of the Home Ministry’s order of March 29, instructing payment of full wages in letter and spirit.
6. Provide free train travel till the last mile with assistance of money.
7. Also the journey planning for workers has to be done with the facilities of quarantine at the destination.
As the nation is witnessing an unprecedented exodus of migrant labour from across cities, a number of issues have come to fore.
This survey could be helpful to understand the basic situation in country's two most industrial states i.e. Maharashtra and Gujarat. It could also be useful for these governments to take cognizance and work swiftly on these recommendations.