Can there be State Government-led collaboratives to shed light on urgently needed solutions for migrant workers?

Can there be State Government-led collaboratives to shed light on urgently needed solutions for migrant workers?

The pandemic has highlighted the poor state of India's 80-130 million migrant workers, who make up the informal workforce, powering high-growth sectors such as construction, manufacturing and urban services in India. The second COVID wave has been a particularly sobering reality check. It has shown the complex nature of this issue and the deep, multi-stakeholder resolve needed to secure a paradigm shift in the livelihoods and living conditions of migrant labour. The recent resurgence of COVID and resultant curfews have once again impacted migrant workers as they bear the brunt of the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic with devastating consequences.

Recognising the critical role that state governments' have in shaping an improved livelihood contract for migrant workers and better living conditions in their place of work, ON India is keen to identify and support meaningful state government led collaborations along with CSOs/development sector players. We believe that innovative lighthouse projects championed by enterprising state governments with strong potential for scale and impact can enable a paradigm shift in the lives of the migrant workforce.

While there is no intended geographical focus, we are keen on supporting interventions in key source states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and key destination states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Delhi. Through such a collaboration, we intend to showcase data-backed practices in migration policy design and implementation, identify technological solutions to address some of these challenges and build a repository of evidence-based narratives and solutions.

For example, we may fund certain innovative initiatives run/incubated by the Housing and Urban Development, Labour or Rural Development departments of a state. These could be programs run at the state level to support migrant workers or by other statutory bodies such as government missions/registered partners. A successful initiative will most likely be one that is championed by a state government with the support of civil society organisations working at the grassroots and having participation from the migrant community. It could also be a project jointly proposed by a source and destination state.

We would welcome state collaborations with different kinds of partners to execute an ambitious agenda to secure a better social and economic future for migrant workers. Examples of such partners would include:

  1. Specialized Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working across multiple states and state governments on migration (e.g. Jan Sahas)
  2. Large multi-state CSOs working in multiple states on rural livelihoods and economic welfare in general (e.g. Pradaan, Foundation for Ecological Security)
  3. CSOs working in specific states and cities
  4. Technical support providers and platforms
  5. Think tanks, scholars, researchers supporting state governments with research, data and capacity support (e.g. National Council for Applied Economic Research, National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, National Law University, Indian School of Business)

Our work will aim to find the balance between the ambitious and the pragmatic, between the strategic and the tactical. An indicative list of focus areas for each theme under the ReSolve Initiative are:

  • Evidence based narratives to inform public and policy: Amplifying data, research and evidence-backed narratives, to make the scale and nature of the migrants' problem more visible. This can support more informed better public discourse, program design and policymaking.
  • Pilot projects in ethical employment practices, worker welfare, safety nets and inter-state collaboration: Sandbox/viable pilot solutions to support the adoption of ethical employment practices and improve access to welfare and safety nets. Projects could also include enhancing coordination of migration support efforts between source and destination states.
  • Ease of living for migrant workers: Innovative models of housing and access to essential services (civic amenities) for migrant communities. This will lead to better economic, social and health outcomes and integration into our cities.

To know more about our thinking towards helping create a meaningful life for India's migrant population, do read our white paper below that we have put together with India Migration Now.

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Photo credit: Business Standard