In the context of uneven development, migration is becoming common, both outside the country and inside. In large countries like India, migration to destinations within the country is more the norm than migration to destinations outside the country.
There are two categories of migrants, viz. i) the [economically] rich, upper caste and professionally educated and ii) the [economically] poor, dalits, and non literate or those with basic education qualification. The flow of migrants is from poor provinces to rich provinces.
The former have access to institutional credit, good housing, good child care, good health care, good education, etc., like the local residents, while the latter have no access to a valid ration card in destination places (which entitles them to subsidised food), and it is difficult for them to access even moderate housing, education (in their mother tongue), child care or health care facilities. Working conditions are abysmal, with at times, the same water being used for drinking and construction. Shelter made out of tin leads to a high incidence of chicken pox and, if not treated on time, leads to deaths. Women and girls, amongst poor migrants, are vulnerable to sexual harassment. They are also more vulnerable to neglect in terms of food, education and health care than men and boys. Reproductive health care is abysmal, including maternal health care for migrants. Poor migrants do not have voting powers.
The following measures are recommended for improving the condition and position of migrants:
i) There is investment in development of origin provinces which are poorer.
ii) Richer provinces are not excluded from donor funds. Projects with special focus on migrants need to be supported.
iii) Poor migrants are given voting rights as unless and until this happens migrants will not have access to basic facilities.
iv) Mobile creches and schools are arranged by government run by people speaking the poor migrant worker's language.
v) All poor migrants be allowed to show their ration cards from the origin states and avail food entitlements in destination places.
VI) All poor migrant workers be allowed to use health care facilities in destination places, and there is a help desk for them run by a person who knows their language.
vii) Links between poor migrants and local government and service providing institutions are established. It is the local government's responsibility to ensure that basic needs, include safe drinking water are met.
viii) All migrants register themselves with the labour welfare board in states of origin and destination states.
ix) Reproductive health camps are held for women and girls in places were migrants reside.
x) Violence protection committees are organised in camps were migrants reside, which deal amongst other things with violence against women.
By Ranjani K. Murthy
Image credit: Human Rights Watch