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24th February 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. NITI Aayog’s draft national policy on migrant workers?
  2. A proper transfer policy needed

Editorial: NITI Aayog’s draft national policy on migrant workers?


  • A NITI Aayog policy draft has proposed the contours of a national policy on migrant workers. Several key recommendations in the draft can be compared to a government working group report from 2017.


GS Paper 1: Population and Associated issues

Mains Questions:

  1. The Niti Aayog draft is a prompt to reimagine labour-capital relations while integrating the migrant workers within the formal workforce. This is necessary to build a compassionate society and a competitive economy. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • A rights-based approach
  • Issues with existing law
  • Governance nuts and bolts
  • Ways to stem migration
  • The importance of data
  • Preventing exploitation
  • Specific recommendations

A rights-based approach

  • The draft describes two approaches to policy design: one focussed on cash transfers, special quotas, and reservations; the other which enhances the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive.
  • The policy rejects a handout approach, opting instead for a rights-based framework. It seeks to
    • remove restrictions on true agency and potential of the migrant workers; the goal,
    • should not be to provide temporary or permanent economic or social aids, which is a rather limited approach.
  • Migration should be acknowledged as an integral part of development and government policies should not hinder but seek to facilitate internal migration .

Issues with existing law

  • The 2017 report argued that specific protection legislation for migrant workers was unnecessary. Migrant workers should be integrated with all worker as part of an overarching framework that covers regular and contractual work.
  • The report discussed the limitations of The Inter State Migrant Workers Act, 1979, which was designed to protect labourers from exploitation by contractors by safeguarding their right to non-discriminatory wages, travel and displacement allowances, and suitable working conditions.
    • However, this law — which was modeled on a 1975 Odisha law — covered only labourers migrating through a contractor, and left out independent migrants.
  • The 2017 report questioned this approach, given the size of the country’s unorganised sector.
    • It called for a comprehensive law for these workers, which would form the legal basis for an architecture of social protection.
    • This was in line with the recommendations of a 2007 report by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
  • The NITI Aayog’s policy draft too, mentions that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should amend the 1979 Act for “effective utilization to protect migrants”.

Governance nuts and bolts

  • The NITI draft lays down institutional mechanisms to coordinate between Ministries, states, and local departments to implement programmes for migrants.
    • It identifies the Ministry of Labour and Employment as the nodal Ministry for implementation of policies, and asks it to create a special unit to help converge the activities of other Ministries.
    • This unit would manage migration resource centres in high migration zones, a national labour Helpline, links of worker households to government schemes, and inter-state migration management bodies.
  • Migration focal points should be created in various Ministries, the draft suggests. On the inter-state migration management bodies, it says that labour departments of source and destination states along major migration corridors, should work together through the migrant worker cells.
  • Labour officers from source states can be deputed to destinations – e.g., Bihar’s experiment to have a joint labour commissioner at Bihar Bhavan in New Delhi.

Ways to stem migration

  • The draft recommends steps to stem migration; this is an important difference with the 2017 report. The draft asks source states to raise minimum wages to bring major shift in local livelihood of tribals that may result in stemming migration to some extent.
  • The absence of community building organisations (CBO) and administrative staff in the source states has hindered access to development programmes, pushing tribals towards migration.
  • The “long term plan” for CBOs and panchayats should be to alleviate distress migration policy initiatives by aiming for a more pro-poor development strategy in the sending areas…that can strengthen the livelihood base in these areas.
  • Alongside the long-term goal, policies should “promote the role of panchayats to aid migrant workers” and integrate urban and rural policies to improve the conditions of migration.
  • Panchayats should maintain a database of migrant workers, issue identity cards and pass books, and provide “migration management and governance” through training, placement, and social-security benefit assurance.

The importance of data

  • The draft calls for a central database to help employers “fill the gap between demand and supply” and ensure “maximum benefit of social welfare schemes”. It asks the Ministries and the Census office to be consistent with the definitions of migrants and subpopulations, capture seasonal and circular migrants, and incorporate migrant-specific variables in existing surveys.
  • The 2017 report called on the Registrar General of India to release migration data no more than a year after the initial tabulation, and to include sub-district level, village level, and caste data. It also asked the National Sample Survey Office to include questions related to migration in the periodic labour force survey, and to carry out a separate survey on migration.

Preventing exploitation

  • The policy draft describes a lack of administrative capacity to handle issues of exploitation. State labour departments have little engagement with migration issues, and are in halting human trafficking mode.
  • The local administration, given the usual constraints of manpower, is not in a position to monitor this has become the breeding ground for middlemen to thrive on the situation and entrap migrants.
  • The draft points to the legal support and registrations tracking potential exploitation in Nashik and certain blocks in Odisha; it also flags the poor supervision of migration trends by anti-trafficking units in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

Specific recommendations

  • The draft asks the Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, and Housing and Urban Affairs to use Tribal Affairs migration data to help create migration resource centres in high migration zones. It asks the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to focus on skill-building at these centres.
  • The Ministry of Education should take measures under the Right to Education Act to mainstream migrant children’s education, to map migrant children, and to provide local-language teachers in migrant destinations.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should address issues of night shelters, short-stay homes, and seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
  • The National Legal Services authority (NALSA) and Ministry of Labour should set up grievance handling cells and fast track legal responses for trafficking, minimum wage violations, and workplace abuses and accidents for migrant workers.

Editorial: A proper transfer policy needed


  • Frequent transfers of public servants affect their morale and weaken administration.


  • GS Paper 2: Role of civil service in Democracy

Mains Questions

  1. The core values of the civil services — neutrality, impartiality and anonymity — cannot be maintained without an efficient transfer policy. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Introduction
  • The need for civil services reforms
  • Mission Karmayogi: Measures taken by the government
  • Recommendations of the committees
  • Way Forward


  • Good governance and better administration of development is often offered as a plausible solution to conflict management.
  • At the heart of this solution are public administrators. Civil servants, no matter how dedicated, innovative and efficient they may be, need a stability of tenure to govern well.

The need for civil services reforms

  • Accountability: The traditional measures of accountability that rely upon line or top-down measures do not necessarily provide a good guide to the accountability culture as a whole. Thus, the need is the recognition that multi-dimensionality of accountability.
  • Emphasize Performance: The present promotion system in civil service is based on time-scale and is coupled by its security of tenure. These elements in our civil service are making the dynamic civil servants complacent and many of the promotions are based upon the patronage system.
  • Need for Specialist Knowledge for Senior Level Appointments: The task of policy making is becoming increasingly complex and needs specialist knowledge of the subject. Under the existing system, the most senior level appointments in the Central secretariat as well as top field level posts are made from amongst the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers who are generalists.
  • Effective Disciplinary Regime: Presently, the provisions of discipline rules are so cumbersome that it becomes very difficult to take action against a delinquent employee for insubordination and misbehavior. Thus, once appointed, it is almost impossible to remove or demote an employee.
  • Transforming Work Culture: Most government departments suffer from poor work culture and low productivity.
  • Streamline Rules and Procedures: A large number of rules and procedures relating to citizen’s day to day interface with government are outdated and dysfunctional and give opportunity to public servants to delay and harass.
  • Stability of Tenure: The ever-present threat of transfer also affects the morale of the officers and their capacity to stand up to undesirable local pressures. The analysis of the SUPREMO (Single User Platform Related to Employees Online) database of the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, shows that the average posting spell of civil servants in India is only about 15 months. This is despite an increase in the median tenure since 2014 at the national level.
    • Ashok Khemka and Pradeep Kasni are two Haryana-based IAS officers whose cases symbolise this issue. Mr. Khemka has been transferred more than 50 times in his career and Mr. Kasni 65 times.
    • The Union Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Jitendra Singh, publicly accepted his helplessness in 2016 about the frequent transfer of officers in States.

Mission Karmayogi: Measures taken by the government

  • Financial Allocation: To cover around 46 lakh Central employees, a sum of Rs.510.86 crore will be spent over a period of 5 years from 2020-21 to 2024-25. The expenditure is partly funded by multilateral assistance to the tune of USD 50 million.
  • The core guiding principles of the Programme will be:
    • Transition from ‘Rules based’ to ‘Roles based’ Human Resource (HR) Management by aligning work allocation of civil servants by matching their competencies to the requirements of the post.
    • Emphasizing on ‘on-site learning’ to complement the ‘off-site’ learning. o To create an ecosystem of shared training infrastructure including that of learning materials, institutions and personnel.
    • To calibrate all Civil Service positions to a Framework of Roles, Activities and Competencies (FRACs) approach.
    • To make available to all civil servants, an opportunity to continuously build and strengthen their Behavioral, Functional and Domain Competencies.
    • To enable all the Central Ministries and Departments to directly invest their resources towards cocreation of common ecosystem.
    • To encourage and partner with the best-in-class learning content creators including public training institutions, universities etc.

Recommendations of the committees

  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has highlighted it.
  • The Fifth Pay Commission had recommended that no premature transfer should be allowed and that there should be fixation of a minimum tenure for each post.
  • The Hota Committee, which argued against frequent transfers, noted that “absence of a fixed tenure of officials is one of the most important reasons for tardy implementation of government policies, for lack of accountability of officers, for waste of public money because of inadequate supervision of programmes under implementation and for large-scale corruption.

Way Forward

Transfers often reflect administrative favouritism and create divisions among civil servants. If they are done on a political basis, this impacts the neutrality of the civil services. The core values of the civil services — neutrality, impartiality and anonymity — cannot be maintained without an efficient transfer policy.

February 2024