Over two and half months into the lockdown, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 9, directed the Centre and state governments to send all the migrant workers to their native places within 15 days and formulate employment schemes after conducting their skill mapping to rehabilitate them. However, what is of concern is whether there exists any proper number of the displaced.
As far as information given out by government sources are concerned, last week, the Chief Labour Commissioner said that 26 lakh migrants are stranded across the country. Of this 26 lakh, 10% are said to be in relief camps, 43% on work sites and 46% in other clusters. While, the Supreme Court was informed by the Solicitor General that 97 lakh had been transported back home.
In the counsel for states in the apex court, Uttar Pradesh said 21.69 lakh of its workers had returned and another 1.35 lakh had been sent back home. Bihar said that 28 lakh had returned. Maharashtra said 11 lakh have left the state. Gujarat said 19.5 lakh had gone back home and 2.5 lakh are remaining. While 3,97,389 migrant workers from other states are still stranded in West Bengal. Karnataka said in court that they have facilitated the return of 3 lakh migrant workers. The Kerala government had said that out of 4.34 lakh migrant workers, over 1 lakh have been transported so far. And 1.61 lakh wanted to remain in the state leaving 1.2 lakh such people who are yet to be sent back.
However, the experts and scholars say the number of stranded would be much more this.
Joint Secretary in the Union Home Ministry, Punya Salila Srivastava, on May 24, had said that there are four crore migrant workers across the country. According to Srivastava, 35 lakh migrant workers had reached their destinations using Shramik Special trains as of May 24. And another 40 lakh had reached home as of May 24 travelling in buses.
Read more:The Migrant and the Moral Economy of the Elite
As per the 2011 census, the total number of internal migrants in India is 45.36 crore or 37% of the country’s population. This figure includes inter-state migrants as well as intra-state migrants. The number of workforce according to the census was 48.2 crore people. While this number is estimated to hae exceeded 50 crore in 2016 and the Economic Survey had pointed out that the migrant workforce accounts roughly 20% of this which means 10 crore.
The Economic Survey of 2017 talked referred to internal migration back then and using a new Cohort-based Migration Metric (CMM) and railway data, put interstate migration at 60 million.
“The first-ever estimates of internal work-related migration using railways data for the period 2011-2016 indicate an annual average flow of close to 9 million people between the states. Both these estimates are significantly greater than the annual average number of about 3.3 million suggested by successive Censuses and higher than previously estimated by any study,” it had said.
Chinmay Tumbe, Ahmedabad-based scholar who has been working on migrant labour in India, puts the number of migrant workers at three crore according to a report by the Indian Express. He notes India’s reverse migration since mid-March to be “conservatively at 30 million or 3 crore or 15-20% of the urban workforce” adding that it is conservative since a lot of intra-state migration is not accounted for.
The top court on Tuesday further directed authorities to consider withdrawing all cases against migrant workers for alleged violation of lockdown norms under the Disaster Management Act. The bench also directed the authorities to identify and register migrant workers who want to go back to their native places and conclude the exercise, including their transportation, within 15 days from Tuesday.
The bench, which posted the matter for further hearing in July, said the schemes for welfare and employment of migrant workers should be publicised adequately.
The top court, which pronounced its order through video conferencing, asked the state governments to consider granting counselling to migrant workers, who have returned to their homes, and provide them employment opportunities as per their skill sets.
The Centre has said it has done its "best" and that till June 3, over 4,200 ''Shramik Special'' trains have been deployed to transport migrant workers to their native places. It had said till now, over one crore stranded migrant workers across the country have been sent to their destinations and most of the trains have ended up in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The Centre had said that the state governments can inform as to how many more migrant workers need to be shifted and how many trains are required for that purpose.
The law officer had said that the Indian Railways has run 802 trains for transportation of workers from Maharashtra to various places in the country and moreover, if a state puts in a request for trains, then they are being provided within a day.
Read more:Majority of Migrant Workers Still Stranded With No Money, Says SWAN Report
(With Inputs from PTI)