Migrant-Connecting, Tracking, Serving

India is unique in culture, geographic pattern, community settlements, economic or natural resources. There is wide regional disparity in development within the country. As a result, people living in rural parts belonging to lower income group, move from their state of origin to another state, within the boundaries of India, either for social or economic reasons. In common term they are referred to as ‘Migrant labourers’. Migrant labourers are a formidable force in India’s economic life, especially the informal sector and MSMEs, constituting nearly 50% of India’s GDP. The total number of internal migrants in India, as per the 2011 census, is 45.36 crore or 37% of the country’s population. According to Aajeevika Bureau—among the biggest employers of migrant labourers are— construction sector (40 million), domestic work (20 million), textile (11 million), brick kiln work (10 million), transportation, mines & quarries and agriculture. Read More

Ethnographic Study Of The Migrant Labourers Through

Lockdown caused by Covid-19 crisis has resulted in reverse migration of unprecedented nature and scale. The situation has given rise to social and economical challenges that has impacted all sections of the society in urban and rural India, and will lead to further deterioration if it is not understood well and addressed collectively. Hence, to understand the ground realities, Digital Empowerment Foundation set up a road trip to conduct an ethnographic study across three most affected states of India—UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. Ethnography is a qualitative research methodology, which is immersive. In a journey that lasted a little over two weeks—we visited three villages in Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh— Saidanpur, Bansa, Rampur; six villages in West Champaran district in Bihar—Gonauli, Awharshekh, Siswa Bhumihar, Dhanauji, Bhitiarwa—and a semi-urban town, Sherghati, in Gaya district; and five villages in Jharkhand—Khakhra, Dundigachhi, Hesatu, Dublabera and Hesatu… Read More

Migrant workers’ walk for survival amid Covid-19

COVID-19 has posed one of the biggest challenges across the globe. Almost every country has been under lockdown to prevent its infection and following the social distancing norm. In India too, the lockdown was announced by the Central Government in different phases from March 25, 2020 onwards, which is now being continued by the state governments in different ways. The lockdown has almost stopped the economic activities, leading to mass unemployment. Due to lack of work, millions of people returned homes in their villages. However, the central government announced an economic package, but due to the government’s policies, millions of families slipped through the cracks of benefits. Digital Empowerment Foundation has continuously tried to raise the issues of such people through all the platforms. Under the COVID-19 series, it spoke about more than 100 million people who have been excluded from the Public Distribution System due to the usage of outdated data… Read More

Episode 18 and 19: COVID-19 Lockdown- The exhausted and upset migrants

Sandeep and Lal Bahadur, migrant labourers from Bettiah, Bihar, shared— “We couldn’t find a bus to Bihar from Kashmiri Gate. We didn’t even know that we won’t get a bus and we are now walking back to Gurgaon.” This has been the state of migrant labourers across the country post lockdown. Several young boys such as Sandeep and Lal Bahadur who are hardly in the age group of 21-22 years, employed as quarry workers in a construction site and live in a rented room close to their work place. They went to the bus stand hoping to get back to their villages, but had to return as all forms of transportation had been suspended during the lockdown. This is just one of many cases of suffering when first phase of lockdown was announced at 4 hours’ notice. It is really upsetting to learn that right from the start, the fight against COVID-19 has completely overlooked the poor section of the society. The fact that slums are practically not in the position to cope with the novel idea of social distancing… Read More

Episode 14: News from the home of the Migrants

Osama Manzar Founder and Director of DEF spoke with Prabhu Kumar – District coordinator at DEF. He has been helping the community members by distributing safety kits, masks and by spreading awareness and providing financial services to them. People in Narkatiaganj, Rampur and Bettiah are following the norms of lockdown, but those who are in the villages, they haven’t taken it seriously. People have to mandatorily wear masks while going out, but the less educated are constantly breaking the rules out of carelessness or lack of awareness. We as a team are trying to debunk misinformation and spread awareness about the vicious virus. The monetary condition of the daily wagers and migrant labourers is not good. They are surviving on borrowed money from their neighbours. Nevertheless, we are making sure that the migrant labourers who have returned to the village are properly screened by the doctors and quarantined for 14 days, and the people also extended adequate… Read More

Episode 3: Migrant labourers in Goa and Politics against non-Goans

Covid-19 DEFDialogue, is a special series initiated by Digital Empowerment Foundation on Covid-19 where we connect with key individuals within our network in 600 locations across 25 states to find out how Covid-19 and the lockdown situation has impacted their area and the measures they are undertaking to tackle it. We will also be interacting with industry experts to gauge the situation and measures that can be undertaken. Osama Manzar, Founder and Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation, spoke with—Sharada Kerkar from Goa. An artist, thinker and an activist, and a curator at India’s first private museum in Goa- Museum of Goa. “According to my observation, the migrant workers are the worst affected in Goa, especially in Saligao. In Goa, thousands of labourers who are daily wagers, are stranded and struggling to make their ends meet. Despite government’s initiatives to convert stadiums into shelter homes, provide cooked meals to the migrant labourers… Read More

Reverse migration during COVID – 19: Precarious Labour, Economic Inequality, and Inadequate Social Protection in India

The migrant crisis that has unfolded in the wake of COVID – 19 has thrown into sharp relief how deeply economic vulnerabilities entrenched and precocities were and how inadequate existing institutional and administrative frameworks are in dealing with crises and disasters. The article is the product of relief services provided by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) near the KMP Highway and the conversations that the staff had with migrant workers passing by. This article has aimed to understand the precocity that circumscribed the lives of this labour force and how progressive policy-making should include greater legal safeguards for this section of the population. This report has been written by Anoushka Jha and Asheef Iqubbal, members of DEFs Research Department. Read More

Episode 24 and 25: Lending Hands

Kapil is a 31-year-old truck driver from a village near Palwal Haryana, who selflessly helped the migrant workers who he came across on his way back from a delivery. He stated that: “I can earn money if I am alive but if I can help these poor migrant workers reach their home who are from different parts of the country, I don’t want to disappoint them.” During the nationwide lockdown, many migrant workers were stranded in different parts of the country with no means of transportation or communication. Such was the case where a couple of migrant workers were stranded near the Jaipur Highway. Kapil offered to help them and took them all the way to Palwal which was the last stop. A similar story is that of Narendra’s family of 12 who were travelling from Gurugram to Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh. With work being stalled due to the lockdown and no pay, he and his family were forced to leave Gurugram. Read More

Episode 22 and 23: Cheated and Chased Away

Vijay Nath and Sanjay, migrant workers who came in search of work to Badli, Haryana, shared- “We didn’t have any money on us when we left and no money for food at home as well.” This has been the case with many such migrant workers all over the country during this lockdown. Many like Vijay and Sanjay who come in the 20-21 age group were employed in the village to harvest the crops at their employers’ land. Their landlord being a drunkard accused them of being cheats and called 10-15 villagers, starting a big fight. They not only beat them up, but also, destroyed the slum where they were staying and took away all their belongings. It is really tragic to hear that during the time when the poor needed money the most, people straight up cheated them and put the blame on the innocent. After putting in so much effort by harvesting 50,000 rupees worth crops, they ended up with nothing since the employer said that the money from the crops sold was for himself. Read More

कोविड-19 के लॉकडाउन के कारण दिल्ली के प्रवासी कामगारों को न तो नौकरी है और न ही सामाजिक सुरक्षा; विशेषज्ञ कानूनी संरक्षण और राजनीतिक उदासीनता को ज़िम्मेदार मानते हैं.

बिहार के आरा जिले के ललन यादव दिल्ली के वज़ीरपुर में मछली मोहल्ले में रहते हैं. ललन को कोरोना से अधिक रोज़गार की चिंता सता रही है. वह कहते हैं, “हमलोग मज़दूर आदमी कमायेंगे नहीं तो परिवार खायेगा क्या. मैं अपने घर में अकेला कमाने वाला हूँ. मार्च से काम नहीं मिला है. यहाँ पर हमारे साथ में 200 ऐसे मज़दूर होंगे, लोग भीख मांगने पर मज़बूर हैं. कोई सुनने वाला नहीं है.” ललन 22 वर्ष पहले बिहार से रोज़ी-रोटी की तलाश में दिल्ली आ गए थे. 3 बच्चों के पिता ललन कहते हैं, “सरकार क्या मदद करेगी, हमारा काम किया हुआ पैसा ही दिलवा दे तो बहुत है. लॉकडाउन से पहले-पहले तक काम किया था. जब लॉकडाउन की घोषणा हुई तो मालिक ने कहा कि कहीं मत जाना. पैसे मिल जायेंगे. कुछ पैसे दिए भी हैं. लेकिन अभी भी 2500 बाकी है. मालिक को फ़ोन करता हूँ तो फ़ोन नहीं उठाता है,” वह आगे जोड़ते हैं, “मार्च से पैसा नहीं भेज पाया हूँ परिवार को, घर पर भी राशन कार्ड नहीं होने के कारण राशन नहीं मिला है. स्थिति बहुत खराब है.” Read More

Episode 20 and 21: The unaided victims of the lockdown

The ordeal migrant labourers are going through is possibly one of the greatest human tragedies witnessed in recent decades. The government’s efforts at improving the plight of these poor souls have been bereft of empathy. It is incumbent upon the powers that be to direct attention at once to these workers who have been forced to undertake arduous journeys on foot. In many instances, they have had to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes. The pandemic-induced national lockdown has rendered inter-state travel on trains and buses almost impossible; hence, the attempt on the part of the workers to walk home. News reports are filled with stories of women dying due to dehydration, children walking barefoot, and other heart-wrenching sagas. Yet, the government has not taken any significant steps to diminish their woes. In one such painful story, migrant labourers from West Bengal, who worked at a construction site in Gurgaon lost their patience. Read More

Hungry, Broken, Bruised, Disappointed

Digital Empowerment Foundation’s team in Nuh works closely with the community through the Community Information Resource Center to cater to the various digital needs. In the time of Covid-19, they have been producing masks which we went to collect to distribute to those in need in Delhi. The DEF Nuh team gave the order to make masks to a local family to help them generate some income in this health crisis. It was on the way that we met the migrant workers who were taking this nearly impossible journey to reach home- some on cycles, rickshaws and others on foot. The Nuh team has been camping at the KMP Expressway where most of the migrants are passing through to go back home, to provide them with relief kits which includes masks, soaps, milk, Glucon-D, biscuits and a water bottle along with cooked food to help them sustain through their journey. We drove down the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road, one of the roads that connects Delhi with its twin city of Gurgaon. Read More