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Key insights into migration

  • The government gave a tentative estimate of there being 10 crore migrant workers in India but admitted to many being largely undocumented and unregistered as workers.
  • The last National Sample Survey Office migration survey, which was published more than 20 years ago, showed that between 1992-93 to 2007–08, the proportion of migrant households among Scheduled Tribes (STs) was higher than among all other communities.
  • The same data showed that STs were the single largest group among female migrants.

Adivasis Facing Crisis

  • The number of Adivasis dependent on wage labour has increased in comparison to those dependent on cultivation.
  • With 45.5% of rural Adivasis below the poverty line, Adivasis usually do multiple kinds of work through the year, including migrating in search of work.
  • Adivasi migration is mainly for seasonal agricultural and construction work, work in brick kilns or as manual workers in urban areas.
  • In the name of ease of business, the last several years have seen an accelerated process of displacement and dispossession of Adivasi communities and a takeover of their land and forest-based resources, increasing the numbers of migrant workers from Adivasi communities.
  • Adivasis are more vulnerable to the general hostility towards the poor displayed by state agencies, particularly the police.

Law and rights

  • The Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, the only law for migrant workers, is to be merged with the Labour Code.
  • Although the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act 1979, is inadequate since it deals only with those migrant workers in the contractor system and excludes workers who migrate on their own, for Adivasi migrant workers employed through contractors, its implementation would have ensured payment as well as free travel back home.
  • In fact, according to the law, the Central government is legally liable to ensure free travel home since it is responsible for the termination of the work because of the lockdown.

Cause of suffering

  • The functioning of Public Distribution System in Adivasi areas, particularly in the hilly regions, is generally irregular.
  • At present, there are hardly any MGNREGA works in Adivasi areas, except to some extent in Chhattisgarh.
  • The health infrastructure in the Adivasi areas is extremely poor.
  • The annual report from the Tribal Affairs Ministry has data on the shortfall in Adivasi areas as: 20.7% for sub-centres, 26% for primary health centres,  23% for community health centres, and 27% for the number of doctors.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024