Bhubaneswar: As a little more than a million migrant labourers have registered with the state government’s dedicated Covid-19 portal and a large number of them have returned back home, this is the time to map their skills to redraw livelihood strategies for them.
This was revealed at a webinar titled ‘Mainstreaming Migrant Workers’ organised by city based civil society outfits ‘Focus Odisha Foundation’ and ‘Mahashakti Foundation’ in collaboration with ‘Migration Watch India’ Tuesday.
In the webinar, experts opined that the government should work out both long-term and short-term strategies so that the livelihoods of migrant workers are secured which would help avert distress, human trafficking and re-migration through alternative pathways. The migrants, after losing jobs, are facing unemployment and poverty back home as uncertainty looms large all over.
Sandeep Chachra, executive director of Action Aid Association India, which works for the migrants, said the need for rebuilding livelihood strategies and ensuring social safety net for both returnees and informal workers working elsewhere in the country – a huge community estimated to be one fourth of the total population of the country. Chachra further said, “We need to think beyond MGNREGS and explore alternative skill based livelihoods.”
The experts stressed the need for ensuring legitimate entitlements of migrant workers as there has been large-scale resentment across the country following the alleged denial of their rights as these communities facing identity crisis.
State head of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Abha Mishra, highlighted the need for mapping skills and knowledge of migrants. “This will enable us to 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 dairy development, focusing on nutri–gardens, organic farming besides emphasising agricultural and tourism development.
Convener of Covid-19-Civil Society Initiative and Migration Watch India Sudarshan Chhotoray while outlining the context described how the pandemic has exposed vulnerability of a large section of economically-backward population.