Cooking to gym training, urban migrants did it all
Teachers, mechanics, cooks, electricians and gym instructors — migrant workers from myriad occupations -- have returned home in the past couple of months, skill mapping in different states has revealed, indicating how the pandemic has affected livelihood across professions and across regions.
The skill mapping was conducted to roll out the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, the targeted programme for jobs to migrant workers in 116 districts that have received at least 25,000 migrant workers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the programme from Bihar on June 20 via video conference.
According to the union government’s initial estimate, about 7.5 million migrant workers have returned to their states of origin by buses and trains, but officials pointed out that the skill mapping exercise is on at a time when several migrant workers have returned through other means, and some are still on their way back to villages.
The government’s initial estimate shows that different states have mapped a wide range of skills. UP has mapped its 3.4 million workers across 80 skill areas, while Jharkhand has classified its returnees in four broad areas based on their interest in livelihood. Officials added that more than 60% of the migrant workers belonged to construction industry in various capacities and the government hopes they can be effectively engaged in construction of roads, houses and other structures in the rural areas.
“We have seen a wide range of professions among the returnee migrant workers. While about 30% or the largest group of migrants consists of unskilled workers in the construction areas, there are people from industries such as textiles, automobile, electricians, carpenters and agricultural workers who have returned,” said an official.
Mechanics and carpenters comprise of about 10% of the returnees, and a large number of students have also returned to their home states, he added. “Some states have even identified at the micro-level and found out gym instructors, banking agents, mechanics, tailors and others who have returned,” said the same official.
So far, among the key districts, UP’s Siddharth Nagar and Prayagraj have received 160,000 and 104,000 migrant labourers, while Madhya Pradesh’s Balaghat has 102,000 returnees.
Rajasthan’s Udaipur has seen 127,000 migrant labourers returning and Pali district received another 140,000 lakh daily wagers. Bihar has eight districts with more than 100,000 returnees; and Odisha’s highest number of migrant workers --125,000 -- have returned to Ganjam.
The Union skill development ministry, along with the rural development ministry, is in touch with the states to get regular updates on the return of migrant workers, officials said.
The Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan is confined to India’s 116 districts across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha, but some other states also want their districts to be included. “Several states including West Bengal, Assam, Chhattisgarh are putting pressure on us to include some of their districts in this programme,” said a senior official of the rural development ministry, “but we don’t have any immediate plan to expand this list.”
The skill ministry is also coordinating with the states with an objective to train 150,000 migrant workers under Short Term Training (STT) and another 150,000 in Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).
“The Centre has tried to resolve the migrant crisis in two ways-- by providing food grains and jobs. Although many workers look back at the opportunity to return to the cities to earn more, the Centre’s welfare package might have to continue for long. The government may also consider incentives for companies that take back migrant workers,” said Achiranshu Acharya, economist with Viswabharati university.