Shedding a light on the magnitude of the impact of the pandemic-induced lockdown on the labour force in the state, a report has been compiled by the Unique Foundation in collaboration with the Savitribai Phule Pune University.
The report, prepared under the guidance of Professor Suhas Palashikar and Professor Rajeshwari Deshpande, is based on interviews with 391 labourers and 271 students conducted in eight villages from different parts of the state. It also focuses on the Supa industrial area near Pune, including it for a case study.
The reverse migration of workers was a major crisis witnessed across the country during the lockdown imposed in March last year. In Maharashtra, as per the findings of report, the majority of migration originated in Pune. About 36% of the labour force returned to their native places during the lockdown. The next city in the list is Mumbai where 23% of the workers left for their hometowns and villages. On the other hand, Marathwada received the highest number of workers -- close to 53%. Those migrating to Western Maharashtra accounted for 46%, showing a disparity in terms of favoured migrant destinations.
Among the workers surveyed for the report, high school-educated accounted for 21%, standard X pass accounted for 22%, 23% were junior college graduates, and 28% had pursued further education. Those who had completed their primary education accounted for 0.6%.
Providing insight into the land ownership patterns among the workers surveyed, the report stated that 59% workers came from small land holding groups, 27% were landless labourers, 9% came from medium-size land holding families and 5% were major land holders. Those who came from medium- as well as big-size landowning families reported that they found their agricultural income insufficient to run their households.
But do industrial and urban spaces offer better income opportunities? As per the survey, 23% of labourers earned only Rs 5,000 Rs per month; 19% earned between Rs 5,000 and 10,000; 24% earned between rs 10,000 and 20,000; 15% earned between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000, while 5% earned between Rs 30,000 and 40,000. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed were skilled (driving, technical skills, etc.); 19% were semi-skilled (deliverypersons, plumbers, helpers, etc.); 23% constituted administrative labour and 13% owned small businesses (vegetable stalls, carts, etc.).
As the lockdown brought the economy to a standstill, 49% labourers said that their income stopped abruptly, while 47% said their work gradually came to a halt. The situation forced them to take out loans. The labourers surveyed mainly borrowed money from their relatives; those who took loans from banks accounted for only 8%.
The most often cited reason for the return migration during the survey was ‘fear of COVID-19’ (52%). Twelve percent, however, said that they had no money left to sustain themselves.
Regarding receipt of relief from the government, 61% of those surveyed said that they received rice or wheat from the government, while 21% didn’t. Regarding the Atma Nirbhar package announced by the Modi government, 60% labourers said that they hadn’t heard of it. Interestingly, a majority of the surveyed workers expressed interest in going back to the cities once the pandemic ends.
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