The Pandemic and the Great Indian Labour Migration

Excerpt of Webinar – The Pandemic and the Great Indian Labour Migration

Time: May 15, 2020 03:00 PM, New Delhi

Organized By: Vivekananda College, New Delhi, Delhi University

Speakers: Prasanna, Theatre Person & Activist

Dr. Rama Shankar Singh, Ex-Fellow IIAS Shimla, (Ancient History and Community rights of subaltern castes his subjects)

Dr Abdul Rahman, Author at Newsclick and Peoples Dispatch

Heena Nandaraju, Principal of the Vivekananda college:  Henna welcomed the discussion saying “The images of migrant workers what we are seeing today its of hunger and shear inability of a laborers to survive in this world.”

Prasanna: We seen what is happened to labor, everybody is worried about it, people, politicians, state and they are also doing things about it. But the problem really is about the mindset. We are in a mindset of Monster Economy, we are in a machine mindset. We don’t think human hands are the productive force anymore; naturally we cannot care for the human hand or the handmaking people, as much as you want to. So they have become a burden, whole lot of people who needs to be fed, who need to be looked after. Whenever they are called to work, they are inefficient we feel, and so that is what made this situation. But then the epidemic, endemic,  Covid has completely up turned the whole situation, Covid has told us that, that economy is dead, monster economy is dead, if we revive the monster economy, it may survive for couple of years and collapse even more badly in future.

So the problem really is, not just of taking care of the labor, but actually going behind the labor, to wherever they were wanting to go, Up, Bihar, Karnataka and with little respect for what they have, the skill. Do understand their skills and give what we have systems, the production system, provided to that in a reshaped ways. This is what needs to be done, but I don’t think we are ready for it. Everyday in I can see, statements made by Prime minister, chief minister’s, bureaucrats, all of them are still in the centralized mode. Moment after announcing the packages, they mentioned about the centralized ration card’s, ID card’s, hundred ways of digitalizing. Digitalization is good if you want centralized systems or economy, but if you want to change according to the dictates of the covid, according to the new situation, Decentralize it. The new economy, the handmade economy, and the small economy, not going to cater to the big people or the big systems. So, it is essentially question of complete redoing of our mindsets.

Abdul Rahaman: The Major concern of today is relating to Migrant Workers. Pandemic has highlighted the issues of these people existed before, so we are able to see now, how vulnerable they are. According to some survey, around 10 crores population is migrant workers who are part of the informal economy which constitutes about 93% of Indian population. Half of the worlds population affected by this pandemic. They need dignity not charity, as they are the ones constructed this wealth. Informal sector people are most vulnerable, but even 6% of formal sector population became vulnerable due to the recent changes to labor laws. As labor lost the purchasing capacity, but they are the ones again need to work to economy crisis resolved, we cannot make them malnourished, as they are today, so food security of the labor is of great concern. Rural economy, unemployment in urban area’s effects need to be tackled proper measures to make sure part of salaries borne by Govts.

Rama Shankar Singh: Today’s labor issues the accumulation of not reviewing and reframing Govt schemes towards the labor and poor are over the time. It shows academic and policy coordination’s were not proper towards migrant and labor at large. We need to think about the complex social issues emerge from the migrants returning back to their villages. If many of the migrants do not have land, how can they become AtmaNirbhar, its double blow that is social inequality plus grown economic inequality. Focusing on Health, Education and power distribution as the basics we must get back as in Kertala, it will yield good results in future.

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