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Why migrant workers’ issues recur: The absence of data and coordination between states

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections


Source: IE

Context: Rumours of migrant workers being assaulted in Tamil Nadu have triggered concern among manufacturers in the state.


Background: Article 19(1)(e) of the Constitution, guarantees all Indian citizens the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the general public or protection of any scheduled tribe.


Issues related to migrant workers in India:

  • Lack of social security and health benefits
  • Lack of portability of state-provided benefits
  • Lack of access to affordable housing
  • Lack of data makes it difficult to track labourers during times of crisis
  • Inadequate coordination among states on a formal exchange of information
  • The nativist agenda of political parties in the states. For example, many state governments have reserved a certain percentage of employment for locals.


What is the legal framework for migrant welfare?

  • The Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 mandates that the establishments which employ migrant workers be required to be registered with destination states.
    • Contractors will also have to obtain a licence from the concerned authority of the home as well as host states.
    • However, this Act has not been fully implemented in practice.
  • This Act has been subsumed into the four labour codes notified by the Centre:
    • The Code on Wages, 2019;
    • The Industrial Relations Code, 2020;
    • The Code on Social Security, 2020; and
    • The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020.
    • These have not been implemented yet.


Way ahead:

  • To put the four labour codes into effect as soon as possible, the central and state governments must collaborate.
  • The welfare measures for the community should include –
  • An exclusive wing can be formed to address the issues and problems migrants face.
  • Instituting a fresh and comprehensive study of migrant workers and helping in their integration with the local community.


Best practices adopted by some Indian states:

  • In 2012, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh (AP) signed an MoU to track labourers migrating from Odisha to work in brick kilns in the-united AP.
  • Kerala has set up facilitation centres (maintain data) for migrant workers whom the state refers to as “guest workers”.
  • Jharkhand has started the Safe and Responsible Migration Initiative (SRMI) in 2021 to generate data and then map the labourers who move out to several states for work.
  • The first Jharkhand Migrant Survey (JMS) was recently conducted across 24 districts of the state.



  • There is a thin line separating nativism and chauvinism, which can be breached at any time.
  • Thus, only registering workers in a database will not help unless worker rights are ensured and violations of rights are strictly dealt with.


Insta Links:

Lessons from COVID: Jharkhant’s 1st survey of migrants