Today’s Question ❓

Q What are some of the problems faced by migrants in urban areas in India? Suggest some policy reforms to address these problems.

Approach 🔍

• Introduce by highlighting the current scenario of migration in urban areas in India.
• Enumerate the problems faced by the migrants in urban areas.
• Bring out certain policy reforms that can be taken to tackle these problems.
• Conclude on the basis of the above points.

Answer 📝

The number of internal migrants in India was 450 million, which includes intra-district, inter- district and inter-state migration, as per the most recent 2011 census. This is an increase of 45% over the 309 million recorded in 2001. Internal migrants as percentage of population increased from 30% in 2001 to 37% in 2011.

Although migration in general and rural to urban migration in particular is conducive for economic and urban transition, there are problems faced by the migrants in urban areas as follows:

• Poor access to basic amenities: Urban space in India lacks provision of adequate infrastructure and security for migrants. They live in slums and work in hazardous locations that are prone to disaster and natural calamities. Most of them do not have identity and residential proof restricting their access to social benefits like PDS, electricity, banking facilities.
• Discrimination and exploitation: Most migrants are poor, illiterate and work in unorganized sector without any social security and work place regulation making them vulnerable to unjust working conditions such as non-payment of wages, physical abuse, accidents etc.
• Lack of opportunity for upward mobility: A large number of migrants work as unskilled labourers as they enter the job market at a very early age, so they experience no upward mobility and remain stuck in the most unskilled, poorly paid and hazardous jobs for their whole work-life span.
• Social exclusion: Cultural differences and language barriers along with limited availability of resources enhance the feeling of nativism, further leading to their alienation. Further the role of social media, as witnessed in the exodus of North-East people from Bengaluru, adds to their exclusion.
• Harassment and abuse: Migrants usually reside in the crime infested slums/ghettos where they are susceptible to physical abuse and sexual harassment, especially women and children. Sometimes, they are also harassed by law enforcement authorities.

Despite high incidence of internal migration, India lacks a comprehensive policy architecture to deal with the issues related to migration. Following are a few measures that can be undertaken to address the above-mentioned problems:

• Registration and identity: Internal migrants should be provided with a universally recognized and portable proof of identity that can enable them to access social security programmes anywhere in India. For instance, One Nation One Ration Card where a beneficiary will be able to avail benefits across the country using the same ration card is a welcome move in this direction.
• Ensuring access to basic service: Access to decent living conditions should also be included in migration policy ensuring that migrants are not denied access to housing and basic services etc.
• Labour market inclusion: This can be done through by providing training, placement and skill upgradation with the help of NGOs.
• Legal aid and dispute resolution: This will help migrants protect themselves against work and wage-related malpractices and will provide grievance and dispute handling mechanisms to negotiate with employers/contractors
• Financial inclusion: This can be done by extending banking facilities to promote savings and secure transfer of remittances in the source and destination areas.

The challenges are complex and lack of recognition for migrants is still to be fully addressed. Unless migrant workers are adequately integrated in the framework of governance in cities, the problems they face will not be resolved.
Overall, a change in policy approach is required whereby migration is not be viewed merely as part of labour policy but is embedded in urban development policy and planning.

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