Monday, March 13, 2017

Missing tribal migrant worker returns home - recounts ordeal

Umi Daniel 

Bala Santa, aged 42 year, father Sanya Santa a kondh  belongs to village Padeikund of Asana Gram Panchayat of Kundra Block of Koraput district.  Santa is a  vulnerable poor and has been enrolled as a Antodaya beneficiary and belongs to PVTG( Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group). Due to poverty and indebtedness, Bala Santa and his minor son Muna Santa were trapped by a local labour contractor named Banamali from Jaba padar village in Kundra who  took the father and son to Palakkad in Kerala with a promise of paying an amount of  Rs. 8000 as monthly wage. Both Father and son along with  some labourers left for  Pallakad, Kerala during June 2016. 

After a month of working in the farm in Palakkad, Kerala, Bala Santa was very upset about his wage which was less than that was promised by the middle man. He told his son to go back home with whatever money they had then. But the son said, -they are here to work for 6 months and only after that they will be allowed to leave. However,  Bala Santa was restless and  said he will be returning  home alone. Then one evening with  Rs. 250 in his pocket,  Bala Santa left for the local railway station to board the train to his village -Kundra. He asked some people about the train that goes to Jeypore and finally boarded a train which took him to Jaipur city in Rajasthan. After working for 6 months in the farm land, Muna finally left for Kundra with a meager earning of Rs. 17000 and found that his father had not  returned home and had gone somewhere else instead.  The family was utterly distressed on not being able to find any information regarding the whereabouts of Bala Santa. He was now a missing person and no one knew where he was. 

After six months of his departure from Kerala, on 19th of February 2017, Narayan Saravor Police in Kutch in Gujrat contacted the Kundra Police in Koraput informing that a man named  Bala Santa  claiming to be from Asana Gram Panchayat of Kundra has been caught by BSF on the India-Pakistan internal border in Kutch and has been  handed over to the police. The police found no criminal antecedence in the case, and repeatedly for 15 days followed up with the Kundra Police IIC to help to take the person back. The local media has also reported the case as well. After getting the news, the family members and the villagers have given a written application to the Sub-collector of Jeypore, Tehsildar, Superintendent of Police but as per the victims’ family, no one came for the rescue of the Bala Santa. Moreover, the collector even didn’t allowed the family to have an audience to listen to their grievances says Manu Santa and son of the victim.

Since no one helped the in the case, the victims family approached PRAGATI, the NGO in Koraput who in turn informed the Migration information & Resource centre (MIRC) Aide et Action, Bhubaneswar to help in locate and repatriation of the victim from Gujrat. MiRC, with the help of Setu-Urban and NGO based at Bhuj in Gujrat established contacted the Gujrat police and came to know that the victim has been sent to the judicial custody and lodged in Palara Jail in Kutch district. One of the staff of MiRC, Aide et Action and the son of Bala Santa traveled to Gujrat. After reaching Bhuj, to their surprise found Bala Santa being admitted in a mental hospital in Bhuj due to some abnormal behavior found when he was produced before the SDJM, Dayapar in Kutch district.  Bala Santa was looked terrified, weak and unable to speak anything. However, he could recognize his son and inconsolably cried and requested to take him away and prayed for his repatriate to his village- said Daya Sagar. The rescue team worked hard and with the help of the Gujrat police moved the bail application and finally been able to release the poor Bala Santa in a very awful situation from the mental hospital.  Now he is back in his villages and recounting and recuperating from the trauma and ordeal which he has encountered since last 6 months.

MGNREGA fail to arrest distress migration:

Why the poor tribal and disadvantage people are today resorting to migration in the hilly region of Koraput. In the case of Bala Santa, as per government statistics, he is an Antodaya beneficiary and privileged to be enrolled on priority to access most of the  the government antipoverty programme. Only the wife of Bala is remained at home and his  elder son and his daughter in-law have also migrated to Andhra Pradesh to work in a brick kiln. His family never accessed employment under flagship National rural employment act, MGNREGA. The scheme doesn’t run well in his own Kundra block.  As per the government data for 2016-17, In Kundra block a total of 17,483 Households have got MGNREGA job cards, however,  only 4015 (22%) provided work and oddly only 63 households have provided with 100 days of employment.  On the other hand, the MGNREGA performance in Koraput district is also quite miserable. As per the 2016-17 government data indicate, out of the total 2,92,549 households who were provided job cards under MGNREGA,  93,519 (31%) people accessed MGNREGA  and  as low as 884 ( 0.94%) households have received 100 days of employment. This tells the sorry state of MGNREGA in the district, and due to non availability of rural employment, the tribal and disadvantaged people find migration as a survival strategy. 

Poor implementation of inter-state migrant workers Act of 1979:

As per the government information, in the year 2011, while 91371 registered as inter-state migrant, it has reached 135000 in 2014 in Odisha as a whole. During 2011, 215 people registered as interstate migrant workers in Koraput district and it went up to 295 during 2014 and 13 labour contractors were officially given license under inter-state migrant workers Act of 1979. The registration of workers and issuance of license to the labour contractor is hugely under reported. Since, the district borders with two states namely, Andhra Pradesh on the south and Chhattisgarh in the north and since the poverty and rural unemployment is significantly higher in Koraput district, tribal in these districts are being recruited as migrant labourers and move to various southern and northern districts as manual wage workers.

Bala Santa’s case is an insight for the government to take enough precaution to arrest distress migration in the district. The illiterate, poor and ill informed tribal are being pushed into distress and migrating for just survival. Rural employment followed by social security, food, livelihood, pension and economic security can very well tackle the vulnerability of people to resort distress migration and suffering. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Number of migrant labourers from Odisha rise threefold in 10 years

Number of migrant workers from Odisha to other states is rising steadily. Compared to 55,000 workers migrating from Odisha in 2007, 1.46 lakh left the state in 2015, government figures show.

Social activists working for welfare of the migrants said the actual number of people migrating to other states for works would be far more than the government figures because only a miniscule percentage of them get registered.

According to the government figures, 87,000 seasonal migrant workers left Odisha to other states in 2008, which rose to 1.05 lakh in 2012, 1.2 lakh in 2013 and 1.35 lakh in 2014. Maximum migrants were from the Balangir district all these years (45000 in 2015).

Labour minister Prafull Mallik, in a written reply in the assembly, said the government has been undertaking awareness campaign in 11 migration-prone districts (Bargarh, Balangir, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Sonepur, Ganjam, Gajapati, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Khurda).

The government has deployed special police officers to gather intelligence about illegal migration and check them. Since voluntary migration for works is not illegal, migrants are being registered at the panchayat level to ensure they are not exploited, the minister said. The minister, however, said it would be wrong to say that the migrants were going outside the state due to lack of job avenues in the state.

Umi Daniel, who works for welfare of migrants with a voluntary organisation, said the government figures are only small percentage of the actual volume of migration. "Most migrants don't get registered. Various estimates show highest people from Ganjam migrate for work. However, there number is very low in the government data," Daniel said. According to the government figures, only 4966 labourers from Ganjam migrated outside the state for work.

Times of India TNN | Dec 10, 2016, 04.51 PM IST Printed from BHUBANESWAR: 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

He becomes a bonded labourer, this time by choice

Chandra Dharua with his family at their Badadakla village­home in Tureikela block of Odisha’s Bolangir district. When Chandra Dharua, a 48­year­old man from Odisha’s Bolangir district, was rescued from 22­year­long bondage in Andhra Pradesh three years ago, he had vowed not to look back on a life of torturous ordeal in brick kilns. However, it did not take even one year for his resolve to melt. With government apathy and lack of employment dashing his hopes, he along with his family members has accepted bondage again. Now he is negotiating with labour intermediaries for a better deal (higher debt amount) for migrating to distant places in either Andhra Pradesh or Telengana. Official documents of Medak district, now in Telengana, had identified him and his family members for being bonded labourers for 22 years. However, it has failed to evoke any sympathy for him in his native state of Odisha. In the past three years, Chandra has received only 90 kg of rice, a humanitarian assistance of Rs.900 from the sarpanch of his village and Rs.21,500 out of Rs.48,500 for house building support sanctioned in his name by the State government.

As per the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, bonded labourers are entitled for an assistance of Rs.20,000. Both Central and State governments share the amount equally. Since Chandra, his wife and his daughter were rescued from bonded labour, they were entitled to get Rs.60,000. But they have not received anything till now. When asked why he decided to return to a place where a brick manufacturer wanted them to toil under terrible working conditions, he retorted: “Do I have any other option here? I could not plough my 90 decimal of land as I did not have a pair of bullocks. Engagement in agriculture is seasonal. Rest of the year, it is difficult to arrange two square meals a day.” Chandra and his family members had taken an advance (debt) of Rs.60,000 for working eight months from November 2014 to June 2015. Now, he is confident that experience of working extremely long hours without any leave at minimal wage and deftness in making bricks would help him raise advance to Rs.70,000. Despite being aware of torture and low payment in brick kilns and construction sector, thousands of villagers like Chandra have taken advances to fall into bondage. The labour market, which runs into several hundred crores of rupees in several western Odisha districts, is now red hot. Population of labourers migrating annually is likely to increase as deficit monsoon rain had led to drought in major pockets. 9/3/2016 He becomes a bonded labourer, this time by choice. 

As per the Odisha government statistics, 1,35,714 labourers were officially sent through 3,213 registered labour agents between 2011 and 2014. During the same period, 3,113 labourers were rescued. But as per unofficial estimates, the number of labourers migrating to brick kilns annually would touch around 3 lakh. Registers on labour migration maintained by voluntary organisations say that as many as 9,595 children, including school­going students from 301 villages in western districts of Bargarh, Nuapada and Bolangir, had accompanied their parents to other States during 2014­15. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik this week announced his government’s resolve to create 1.62 crore man­days by spending Rs.500 crore under the MGNREGA in face of the looming drought situation. “The announcement on MGNREGA will not be able to hold migrating labourers back. In the past, villagers were tired of seeking jobs under MGNREGA, but the administrative inertia left them in the lurch,” said Daya Sagar Pradhan, an activist who has lived in brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for 10 years and seen the plight of migrant workers from close quarters. 

The Hindu: September 19th 2015 By Satya Sunder Barik

Friday, April 22, 2016

Drought, destitution and distress migration

Umi Daniel

Half of the 688 districts in India today are reeling under the extreme situation of drought. Some of the regions, particularly the western part of India has been consecutively experiencing drought but during 2016 the intensity of drought has become more severe and widespread. Odisha has a long history of drought and this year too it is under the firing line of the nature and facing drought with varied degree of impact and intensity. According to the government of Odisha, out of the 30 districts in Odisha, 28 districts have been affected by drought. Of late, the Government of India has released Rs. 276.54 crores as drought assistance. It is alleged that, the Govt. of India’s release of drought assistance is much less against its commitment of Rs. 815 crores.

All including the IMD predicted a deficient and low rainfall during 2015. The farmers and the people on the ground were all aware about the situations and started their own contingency plans to face yet another drought. Nonetheless, in India the administrative ritual is quite cumbersome and hasn’t transformed since the days of British Raj on drought management. The colonial process of the district collectors’ crop cutting report is considered as significant administrative paraphernalia to announce drought or deny drought in a particular geographical area. Once the ground assessment is done, another high level bureaucratic exercise is conducted by the central government and based on their field report the drought assistance is determined. The sequence of events for declaring drought and initiating relief work hang back hugely and fail to address the immediate and most vital human sufferings and effects like distress and mass migration. This is because, in the absence of timely administrative action to generate rural employment and contingency plan on provision for agriculture, irrigation and drinking water force the vulnerable and poor people to move to urban areas for employment and survival. And thus, along with landless agriculture workers, due to crop failure, the debt ridden farmers also join the bandwagon of wage seeker migrants. While drought is bane for poor people, it is boon time for labour traffickers and middleman who earns good dividends due to sudden spurt in men, women and children predisposed to work as migrant labourers.

India has got a long history of implementation of drought relief programmes and particularly wage employment schemes during drought. The Maharashtra state employment guarantee programme of 70’s was one of the successful drought relief mass employment generation programme ever implemented in India. India had in the past formulated string of rural employment generation programmes, however the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2005 (MGNREGA) was considered as a historic and ambitious rural employment generation programme to combat rural unemployment, distress, rejuvenate natural resources and create permanent and productive assets for poverty alleviation.

In view of the drought situation, the Central government has increased the number of days under MGNREGA from 100 to 150 in all the drought prone regions. The Government of Odisha has added another 50 days and made it 200 days employment for all the drought prone districts. However, the enhanced employment days under MGNREGA so far has failed to deliver on the ground. In a calamity situation, people will not wait for all the trumpet beat and declaration of additional days of employment under MGNREGA. It is quite visible that, the people on the ground are slowly losing faith on MGNREGA due its poor deliverables. After half a decade of its formulation and implementation, MGNREGA is today marred with lot of structural problems, failed and unsuccessful experiments, corruption and is struggling to reach out to at least 25% of its registered job seekers with 100 full days of employment. In Odisha a massive 66 lakhs people have registered for employment under the MGNREGA, unfortunately it could only provide 100 days of employment to less than 1 lakh people.

In India, the days of food for work, calamity relief work, fodder schemes and emergency feeding programmes are more or less being phased out or are in transition. Despite having loopholes in these emergency programmes, some programmes such as food for work, emergency water supply, adaptable agriculture, fodder for the cattle and emergency feeding for the destitute in the past have greatly benefited the people to reduce vulnerability and confronting the affects of natural calamities.

In 2009, India launched its National Policy on Disaster Management with a vision to build a safe and disaster resilient India. The policy aims to develop a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster oriented and technology driven strategy through a culture of prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response. However, the capacity, knowledge, skills and infusing timely and appropriate budget for both short term and long term planning is lacking. The National Climate Change Action plan and the state plan of action on climate change needs to be implemented on a priority basis to create a resilience community to combat drought and vulnerability. There should be a paradigm shift in managing drought in India. The flagship MGNREGA and the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has got much needed ingredient to provide relief as well as long term solutions on drought Mitigation. While the Food Security Act will prevent hunger and destitution, MGNREGA need to be made more receptive and accountable to create durable assets for agriculture, land & water conservation, forestry and should be proactive in providing employment and timely wages to check distress migration.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Govt of India considering a law for granting voting rights to internal migrant workers

Umi Daniel

In the month of July 2015, Hearing a petition to provide voting rights to Non Resident Indian which the Government of India has already agreed to bring out legislation for granting the voting rights of NRIs. Further, the Central Government in its reply also has informed the Apex Court for drafting a law to make provision for postal ballots for internal migrant’s workers in India.

A bench comprising Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra and Amitave Roy was hearing a petition for extending the postal voting rights to NRI being filed by one Mr. Nagender Chindam  and Mr. Samsheer VP both are NRIs.

The Election Commision, earlier did not favour extending the same benefit to migrants in the country. " Scheme of the Representation of Peoples Act is that a person can be enrolled only at the place where he is ordinarily resident, the question of any person migrating to a different place from his native place, enrolling himself in the electoral roll of his native place does not arise, the poll panel had said in an affidavit. 

However, during the July 2015 hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) PL Narasimha, who was representing the central government, told the court that a committee to consider such a law has already been set up and is expected to submit a report by September 15 after advocate Prashant Bhushan suggested that the government should consider extending the facility to the country’s migrant population. The bench added that the Election Commission was considering such a law.

Voting rights for the migrants was voiced in this blogspot earlier and it is a welcome step that millions of migrant workers in India who are being excluded from exercising their democratic rights to vote will now be considered to cast their right to vote even if they are away from their native constituency. It is also hearting to know that the petition which was argued to provide voting rights for the overseas NRIs is also being extended to give the same privilege and rights to the internal migrants.

It will be a historic day when the law will allow the poor, disadvantage unorganized migrant workers will equally participate in the democratic governance of the country.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Government of India set up task force to study migration

Umi Daniel

The recent National Sample survey data in India shows that one in three households in urban area are migrant households. Most of the migrants move across within the state boundaries and the single most reason of migration is employment. It is estimated that by 2030, close to 50% of the population of India will be living in urban area.

Realizing the challenges of urban governance, infrastructure, livelihood, housing, access to basic services and creating inclusive policies for migrants, the government of India has set recently up an inter-ministerial task force to study the impact of migration on housing, infrastructure and livelihoods. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation ( HUPA) has issued orders to set up a panel with members from ministries of Rural Development, Labour and Employment, Statistics and Programme implementation, Home Affaris and HUPA. The panel is headed by Dr. Pattho Mukhopadhayay from the Centre for Policy Research will also include a representative from the NITI Aayog in addition to housing and migration experts. The panel will study causes, forms and patterns of external and internal migration, its fallout across various economic groups and impact of remittances on receiving and remitting regions. It will also examine the effectiveness of existing legislation such as Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act of 1979.

The panel is expected to submit its report by the end of the year

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

State Action Plan to address migrant workers issues and concerns in Odisha

Umi Daniel 

Perturbed by perennial cases of exploitation & violation of rights of inter-state migrant workers in Odisha, the government of Odisha, Department of Panchayat Raj has came out with a comprehensive state action plan for ensuring enforcement, welfare, entitlements and protection of rights of inter-state migrant workers moving within and to various states as seasonal workers.  A detailed advisory and action plan was issued by Dept of Panchayat Raj on December 17th 2014.

The proposed action plan is said to be implemented in 11 districts of Odisha which is considered as key migration prone district of Odisha. The targeted district includes, Bolangir, Bargarh, Subranapur, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Gajapati, Ganjam, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Khorda. The department of Panchayat Raj has also allocated a budget of Rs.7,49,60,750 to carry out wide range of initiatives both at the district and state level. Some of the key departments which are going to play pivotal role in implementation and coordination of various activities are, Labour and ESI department, Panchayat Raj dept, Home department, School and Mass education department, Food supplies and consumer welfare dept, Revenue and D.M department and the Micro, Small Medium Enterprises Department. Following are some of the key initiative being extracted from the action plan.

The labour and ESI department, Government of Odisha has been assigned the responsibilities to conduct periodic survey of migrant people in this district to understand various aspects and trend of migration. Voluntary registrations of migrants are proposed to carry out at the panchayat level by PEO, EO, GRS. Details about migrants and their enrollment under the MGNREGA and special migrant identify cards were also being suggested. Further, registration of constrction workers under OBOCWB ( Odisha Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Board), job card under MGNREGA, Registration under RSBY and Biju Krushak Yojona has been resolved. The government also recommended computerizing the migrant’s data and a develop a separate software for the purpose of tracking.

In regards to unscrupulous agents and labour contractors who illegally recruit, harbor and dispatch migrant labourers without proper legal registration under the ISMW( RE&CS) Act 1979 are subjected to strict surveillance and watch by the local police. The action plan has made strong recommendation for identification, arrest and punishment of the contractors who violet the Act.

The SAP also emphasize on implementation of all the labour laws pertaining to Payment of Minimum Wage, Contract Labour Act, Employees Compensaton Act, Child labour Act  and Inter State Migrant Workers( Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act of 1979 and to take action on the Bonded Labour ( Abolition) Act, 1976.

Shramik (Labour) Help line telephone no 155368 has been set up to provide support for rescue and repatriation of migrant labourers in crisis from other states. The ESI Department has also determined to provide financial resources for sending of rescue team to rescue of migrant labourers living in crisis in other states.

The Action plan emphasis to singing of MOU with destination States to protect the migrants workers rights, welfare and social security and establish contacts with various welfare organization at the destination states to create contact points to reach out to migrant labourers.

Strengthening seasonal hostels for children of migrant workers has been in function in Odisha by School and Mass Education department and more such facilities in migration prone regions has been proposed. The dept of labour & ESI, Govt of Odisha is willing to provide financial support for running of such seasonal hostels.

The action plan also goes-on to suggest a range of initiative for the intra-district migrant workers access to basic services, entitlements and running of crèche at the work-site to be aided by the Odisha Labour Welfare Board.

Awareness creation and educating migrant workers about their rights and entitlement has been prioritized in the action plan. Partnership and collaboration with SHG,  PRI institution trade unions, NGOs to spread the awareness and labour education has been strongly recommended.

All the 11 targeted districts are also mandated to create a district level monitoring committee under the chairmanship of District Collector has been planned. Other members of the committee includes, Superitended of Police, PD, DRDA, CMO, DSWO, DEO, members from CWC, DLO ( convenor) and members from NGOs, trade union. The term of the committee has been stated as two years.
At the state level, a State Level Migration Cell has been planned to be set up with basic minimum infrastructure and financial allocation. 

Enactment of the State Action Plan on addressing the concerns and issues of intra and interstate migrant labourers in Odisha is a welcome step. The Government of Odisha has been  under tremendous pressure from rights and legal bodies like NHRC and the Apex Court after number of cases of labour exploitation and the latest being chopping of palms of migrants being reported in Odisha to act firmly towards reducing distress and protection of rights of inter-state migrant workers in Odisha. 

The success of implementation of the SAP depends much on the convergence and collaboration of various wings of the government towards effective enforcement and welfare programme for the labourers. It is also crucial to create a larger platform for participation of the migrant labourers, create interstate linkages, PRI and NGOs to make the programme successful.