Rebuilding Livelihoods of Migrant Workers: Odisha Government Urged to go for Skill Mapping of Migrant Workers

Bhubaneswar: As a little more than a million Migrant Laborers have registered with the State Government’s dedicated COVID -19 Website and a large number of them have returned back home triggered by uncertainty over Corona Pandemic, time to map their skills to redraw livelihood strategies for them. Government should plan out both long-term and short term strategies so that their livelihoods are secured thereby avoiding the risk of distress, human trafficking and re-migration through alternative pathways, said the outcome of a National Level Webinar, a Virtual Dialogue on Mainstreaming Migrant Workers. Migrants after losing jobs are facing unemployment and poverty back home as uncertainty looms large all over.

The webinar was organized jointly by City based Focus Odisha Foundation and Mahashakti Foundation in collaboration with National level Migrant Resources Centre Migration Watch India on July 13. About one hundred participants drawn from a cross section of society and representatives of civil society organizations from across the country participated to deliberate on the most pressing issue of the time Migrant crisis.

While making a lead presentation Executive Director of Action Aid Association India and Co-Chair of World Urban Campaign of UN Habitat Sandeep Chachra underlined the need for rebuilding livelihoods strategies and ensuring social safety net for both for returned migrants and informal workers working elsewhere in the Country, a huge community estimated at one fourth of the total population of the country. Chachra further added that we need to think beyond MGNREGS and explore alternative skill based livelihoods.

Dr Niranjan Sahoo, Sr Fellow at New Delhi based India’s leading think tank The Observer Research Foundation stressed the need for ensuring legitimate entitlements of migrant workers as there have been a large scale resentment across the country following the alleged denial of their rights as these communities facing identity crises as nowhere people.

“it’s good that MGNREGS have provided fifty percent jobs to a huge population of jobless people during the last couple of months in rural hinterlands and have created 1.2 million man day in this period, but if we will not properly implement Pradhan Mantri Graiba kalyan Yojana, Food Security packages and a slew of programmes announced for migrants benefit, millions of people will be getting to poverty trap again”, said Sahoo.

State head of UNDP Abha Mishra in her presentation highlighted the need for mapping the skills and knowledge of Migrant people so that we will be able to a draw a line between skilled and unskilled people and plan for the restoration of their livelihoods. She further added that there is a need to think about developing natural industries like livestock and diary development, focusing on nutri–gardens, organic farming besides emphasizing on agricultural and Tourism development.

Shaonli Chakraborty of Bengalure based nation level forum Covid Action Collaborative called upon civil society actors, Industries, Governments to redirect their priorities for the resettlement and restoration of jobs of millions of migrant laborers; otherwise we will lose sight of prospering societies. All it needed is to facilitate their social security and occupational safety both at Origin and Destination Places and at Transit points.

Mumbai based CSR Head of ACC Ltd Pratyush Panda questioned on how skill persons can be engaged in MGNREGS wok which is largely for unskilled rural wage workers. As things stand today both Industries and civili society should come together to facilitate reengagement of lakhs of skilled migrant workers.

Convenor of COVID-19-Civil Society Initiative and Migration Watch India Sudarshan Chhotoray while outlining the context described how Corona Pandemic has exposed vulnerability for a large section of economically backward population. Time has come we need to recognize the Talents, Skills and knowledge migrants have brought in and the key to unlocking their potential is to put a right based orderly system in place to reintegrate them in local labour market thereby extending their access to social and economic security.

Prominent among the Guests who spoke were Sr Journalist and Foreign Affairs Expert Gopal Misra, Convenor of OIKTREE Initiatives William Stanley, President of ADHIKAR Ms N Amin, Joint Secretary of Utkal Samaj Madras Biswajit Kanungo and President of Mahashakti Foundation Santosh Kumar Mishra.

A special session was devoted on-How we reached out to thousands of standard Migrants? Where activists shared their experiences in dealing with the unfolding crisis and coordination they had with Government Authorities, Civil Society, Citizen’s Groups, Activists, Industries and philanthropists across the Country.

CEO of Mahashakti Foundation Jugal Kishore Patnaik summed up the outcome and deliberations and Shrishita Rath proposed vote of thanks.