Govt may begin migrant data collection this week
The Union government is likely to launch by this week a digitised platform for migrant workers that will enable authorities to direct state-run benefits to them and intervene during crises, people aware of the matter said on Sunday. This follows a Supreme Court order in June that set a deadline of July 31 for the move.
Last summer, tens of thousands of low-paid workers made an exodus on foot from major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai under without much food or money following the stringent national lockdown during the first wave of Covid-19. In September 2020, then labour minister Santosh Gangwar told Parliament that the government had no data on how many such people left the cities or how many died in the lockdown.
The migrant workers’ portal is expected to fill this gap. It is a joint venture between the labour and employment ministry and common service-centres (CSC) run by the electronics and information technology ministry, the people quote above said.
“The portal is fully ready and we will be in a position to begin registration of workers anytime and possibly go live by this week,” a labour ministry official aware of the matter said on condition of anonymity.
The platform will allow migrants to register themselves and secure a unique ID to access the portal from a CSC. The CSCs are points of access to a host of government digital services across the country and there are nearly 400,000 of them. “The ID can be used to access government schemes and services, irrespective of their place of stay,” an IT ministry official said, asking not to be named.
Workers in the informal economy are estimated to contribute nearly 50% to the country’s gross domestic product. “One is not clear given the humongous task of registration whether this project will be completed in the near future. The first part is registration, of course,” said KR Syam Sundar, an economist with the Xaviers Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur.
According to Sundar, the Supreme Court is aware of the “governments’ apathy in complying with critical procedural requirements concerning unorganised workers over the (past) decade and a half”.
On June 29, the apex court, while hearing a case on the plight of workers in the unorganised sector, set a deadline of July 31 for the government to “prepare a mechanism” for the registration of such workers. Similar deadlines had been set in 2018 and 2019 as well.
Workers will be registered as and when they apply and that could take time. “But we will launch a big awareness drive so that nobody is left behind,” said the labour ministry official.
While there are no official estimates on the total number of migrant workers, a novel statistical tool developed by former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian had revealed an annual “interstate migrant population of about 60 million and an interdistrict migration as high as 80 million” between 2001 and 2011.
According to the second official cited above, the portal is similar to a platform that the Gujarat government launched last month for construction workers to access the state’s welfare schemes. The Gujarat portal saw a registration of over 100,000 workers within a fortnight of launch, the official said.
While the unique identification number allotted to migrants will be similar to the biometric Aadhaar, the unique ID will not be made mandatory for registration.