Migration has been significantly reshaping the traditional social and economic structures of rural communities of Chattishgarh. The livelihood activities of rural families are no longer confined to farming and are increasingly being diversified through rural-to-urban migration. With the development of trade and industry and the awareness produced by the mass media, rural poor are shifting towards the urban areas in order to improve their living standards and to search for better livelihood opportunities. The lack of employment opportunities in the rural areas and better employment prospects and infrastructure facilities in the urban areas motivate people to migrate to urban areas. In the rural areas, sluggish agricultural growth and limited development of the rural non-farm sector raises the incidence of rural poverty, unemployment and underemployment. Given the fact that most of the high productivity activities are located in the urban areas – people from rural areas move towards town or cities with a hope to grab diversified livelihood opportunities as the rural poor still consider migration as one of the significant as well as reliable livelihood coping strategy.
Earlier human migration from present Chhattisgarh had reportedly occurred in the late 19th Century. Much later, drought years during the 1960s had triggered wide-spread migration. However, in the recent years migration has become more of a norm than exception, accentuated by misguided development policies that force the poor to migrate in search of improved livelihoods. Within districts of the state, women migrants outnumber men. This not only indicates the role of women in securing livelihoods for the household but reflects an overall inadequacy of welfare schemes of the state to reach out to the poor. Given the diversity in the nature of migration in Chhattisgarh, the causes are also of multiple in nature. Armed with the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act (1979), the Ministry of Labour and its concerned departments are instrumental in formulating and implementing measures to protect the rights of the migrant workers. However, serious gaps in actual implementation of progress on the ground have been observed and reported in recent years. With this broader perspective, the consultative meeting brought together 33 participants drawn from the government, academia, trade union, media and civil society to deliberate upon the key features and trends in migration from the perspective of addressing policy challenges.
The impact of migration
On migrants and their families : Poorer migrant workers, crowded into the lower ends of the labour market, have few entitlements vis a vis their employers or the public authorities in the destination areas. They have meagre personal assets and suffer a range of deprivations in the destination areas. In the source areas, migration has both negative and positive consequences for migrants and their families
Living conditions : migrant labourers, whether agricultural or non-agricultural, live in deplorable conditions. There is no provision of safe drinking water or hygienic sanitation. Most live in open spaces or makeshift shelters in spite of the Contract Labour Act which stipulates that the contractor or employer should provide suitable accommodation . Apart from seasonal workers, workers who migrate to the cities for job live in parks and pavements. Slum dwellers, who are mostly migrants, stay in deplorable conditions, with inadequate water and bad drainage. Food costs more for migrant workers who are not able to obtain temporary ration cards.
Health and Education: labourers working in harsh circumstances and living in unhygienic conditions suffer from serious occupational health problems and are vulnerable to disease. Those working in quarries, construction sites and mines suffer from various health hazards, mostly lung diseases. As the employer does not follow safety measures, accidents are quite frequent. Migrants cannot access various health and family care programmes due to their temporary status. Free public health care facilities and programmes are not accessible to them. For women workers, there is no provision of maternity leave, forcing them to resume work almost immediately after childbirth. Workers, particularly those working in tile factories and brick kilns suffer from occupational health hazards such as body ache, sunstroke and skin irritation.
Tribal issue in migration
In recent years three distinct types of migration waves can be observed taking place in the Adivasi dominant states of Chhattisgarh.
The First Wave is the migration of young Adivasi women to metropolitan cities. The reasons behind this is that is nothing in the house or village to occupy these women in a profitable or meaningful way. After the mono-crop, which is paddy is harvested on their tiny plots of land, families find that the harvest will last only for a few months. Instead of sitting at home, idle and starving, girls and women opt to migrating to cities and towns to work as house-keepers in urban middle-class families.
They are completely unaware of the risks and dangers involved. They get in touch with some middle-men/women and take off often without even informing and getting the consent of their parents. They land up in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai completely at the mercy and disposal of placement-agencies with no choice over future employers, or the type of work, wages, living conditions etc. they want. Their number is estimated to be around three-to-four lakhs.
The Second Wave is the seasonal migration of entire families to northern states. June to December is the monsoon-fed agricultural season. As the food produced is insufficient to feed the family for the whole year and there is no possibility of a second crop because of lack of irrigation hundreds of families leave their homes and hearth, temporarily, between January to May. Only some elderly members are left to attend to the cattle.
The Third Wave is the recent exodus of Adivasi youth to the Southern States as casual/contract labour. Thousands of them work mostly at the construction work sites in the cities of Karnataka and Tamilnadu and cities, farms and plantations of Kerala. They go there either through contacts with persons who are already there or they are taken in batches by contractors/middle-men.
There are two main reasons responsible for above trends:
(i) Deepening poverty: while the Indian economy is said to be growing at the fastest rate, poverty is deepening in the Adivasi belt of central India. Blessed by nature with rich mineral wealth has now become a curse to them.The protective constitutional provisions, laws, judicial verdicts meant to protect the Adivasi have been cast aside and are being disregarded and safeguards violated.
(ii) Increasing State repression: The Adivasis, however, are not taking this exploitative situation lying down. Resistance movements against the unjust, illegal, forcible acquisition of their jal, jangal, jamin have found an echo among people at large and some umbrella organizations vs displacement have played a significant role in turning away most companies empty handed. This includes industrial giants like Mittal, Vedanta and Posco.
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