OdishaPlus Bureau

The outbreak of COVID 19 has put an alarming health emergency and it has been a big challenge for everybody. The imposition of lockdown has greatly affected the lives and livelihoods of most vulnerable communities of the society and the migrants working in different locations have been impacted a lot. A large number of migrant workers and their families, including women and children started walking on road to come back to their villages. They faced immense difficulties due to job loss, lack of food, shelter and other social measures.

To know the situation of those stranded migrant labours Actionaid with help from other partner organizations and coordinators conduct the first round survey in different States and in Odisha in 20 districts in the month of May 2020. The State report in regional language has been released for wider dissemination. Partners from different districts, respondent migrant labours and experts like Golok Bihari Nath, Sudarshan Chhotray, Basant Patra, Rakhi Ghosh etc. were present and share their view and suggestion on advocacy for betterment of migrant labours. Ghasiram Panda, National Manager Actionaid moderated the meeting.

Debabrat Patra the Associate Director, Actionaid set the context and stated that Actionaid has done this action research as a longitudinal survey in different phase with those migrant labours to know their situation and plan for further action. With this process the 2nd phase survey has been completed in the month of September 2020. We observed the jobless situation and difficulties to return to their home in lock down phase and now we also observed the reverse migration where the migrant labours are forced to return back to other states in search of job.

Bigger challenge awaits as Lockdown enters second month

During emergency situation like flood and cyclone they faced immense difficulties and situation is worsened. We presented these findings before the expert committee of NHRC where they reviewed the humanitarian violation during COVID. We also shared these findings and recommendations with different ministries. We shared these with District Magistrates of 11 districts of Odisha and extent our assistance to prepare action plan to deal with migrant labour issues.

It has been observed that 70 percent migrant labours have reported loss of livelihood, 43 percent have been stranded for more than a month during this period, 45 percent had forced to vacate their housing and 67 percent forced to diminish their food consumption. 58 percent reported that they used their savings and completely lose it as they have not got any livelihood opportunities. 45 percent are not able to get their entitlements and 48 percent not able to get access to primary health care facilities. Lopamudra and B N Durga from Actionaid shared the findings and recommendations from the survey report.

Participants and experts shared their view on the findings and stated that migrant labours, domestic workers and small vendors have faced immense difficulties during the lock down process and even today. They faced police atrocities and on road harassment with many instances of abuse in temporary medical centres. Women and children have faced similar difficulties by not getting proper food, health and education facilities. Till now labours are not able to get proper livelihood opportunities and we need to continue our hand holding support to ensure them proper livelihood and to get their entitlements. There is no database prepared for domestic workers and skill development training and engagement process is also not done properly.

Migrants Labour

Registration of migrant labours at Gram Panchayat level is still lacking. There is no labour focused gram panchayat development plan at any place in our State. There are many short comings in employment guarantee scheme and people are also not aware about the decisions taken at government level about their entitlements. Low wages, no scope for skilled labours, less man day etc. are not attracted people to avail the scheme. Single women and person with disabilities are not getting proper benefit and attention in these processes as they are most vulnerable section in the society. There is a regular effort to dilute the legal provisions which are meant to provide safeguard to migrant labours and nobody is willing to obey those provisions.

Overseas migration issue is also need to be taken into account as they are not working in a safe environment. To create a cheap labour force the vulnerable section people are always targeted by taking away their natural resources and in this report we also observed that ST, SC and OBCs are mostly affected. Government should take note of the recommendations from the report for a better solution of migrant labour issue.  For a proper monitoring of the issue the task force need to be institutionalized at block and panchayat level.

Registration of migrant labours by ensuring proper safeguard measures for them at their work place is essential. The virtual meeting ended with release of the report titled “Workers in the time of COVID-19, Findings from Odisha Round 1” both in English and Odia language by eminent panelists and vote of thanks by Suvendu Ray the M & E manager Actionaid to all participants.