October 12, 2014

Odisha: AIAWU & CITU Jointly Hold Migrant Labour Convention

Sisir Hui

THE Odisha Khet Mazdoor Union and the CITU Odisha state committee have jointly organised a state convention of migrant workers at Balasore on September 27. This programme was organised as per the call given by the recently held 7th all India conference of the All India Agricultural Workers Union. The convention demanded an amendment to the Interstate Migrant Workmen Act, to expand the definition of migrant work persons as well as to include the circular migrant agricultural workers. Veeraiah Konduri, CWC member of the AIAWU, Prof. Vijaya Bahidar, Dr Amrita Patel, director of the State Centre for Research on Women, government of Odisha attended the seminar. Radha Raman Sarangi, CITU secretary welcomed the speakers to the seminar. A paper on migrant labour problems was placed by Sisir Hui, vice president, Odhisha Khet Mazdoor Union (OKMU). This seminar was presided over by Pradipta Panda, ex MLA. The speakers stressed that systemic changes are necessary to eradicate the problems of the migrant labour. Sisir Hui said, due to the implementation of the neo-liberal policies, migration is growing day by day and has become a part and parcel of our lives. The main reason behind it is unemployment, poverty and social discrimination. Emphasising on these main causes, the speakers presented their views. According to the 2011 census, internal migrants in India are estimated to be 40 crores. 20 crore workers have migrated from one place to another in search of employment. Of these, four crore people migrated to construction industry, two crore people migrated as domestic workers; another 50 lakhs migrated as sex workers. In Odisha, migration has been rising. It is observed that wherever there is no development of agriculture and there is lack of non-agricultural employment in villages, and non-implementation of land reforms, migration is much higher compared to other places where there is some progress in these aspects. Migration can also be classified into various kinds i.e., short, medium and long distance migrations and similarly rural-to-rural, rural-to-urban, urban-to-urban and finally urban-to-rural migration. There is another type of migration called circular migration and long standing migration. Circular migration involves primarily rural poor who migrate in search of seasonal employment. The paper which was placed before the seminar stressed upon land reforms, on the necessary steps to be taken to develop agricultural sector and all the vacancies in the state government jobs have to be filled immediately. As per the ILO labour rights, social security and employment opportunities are to be implemented properly. For this, not only the KMU but also the CITU and other progressive and Left mass organisations are to be united, to launch a campaign and develop a movement in the state which can give some relief to the migrant labour. Presenting the key note address, Veeraiah criticised the central and state governments for their apathy towards the migrant workers. Despite an enormous increase of forced migrant labour due to structural changes in the economy, governments have failed to understand the gravity of the issue and grievances of the migrant workers. He said that without migrant labour, the ongoing urbanisation and building of modern cities would not have been possible. Though they are facing many hardships, the migrant workers are contributing to the economy of home states through their remittances, he said. The government policy is biased towards foreign remittances and neglects the value and contribution of internal remittances. It has not yet constituted a central board to look after the problems of inter-state migrant workers problems. Not only that. The government’s apathy is further reflected in its failure to update the data on the conditions of internal migrants. The last study on their situation was conducted seven years ago. As per this study, 23.8 % of migrant workers belong to ST and 26% belong to SC and 28% belongs to OBC communities. Thus, nearly 77% of migrant population comes from those social groups who are part of rural poor. In the case of Odisha, 76% of migrants are going from one village to another in search of employment as they lack education and other skills to perform skilled work. Dr. Amrita Patel in her speech explained the conditions of women and children who are migrating and are pushed into trafficking. She suggested the setting up of short duration hostels for migrant workers in destination states which can be instrumental in bridging the educational gap and provide sustainable residential facilities. She also suggested that both the origin and destination states must come together and institute a coordination mechanism to alleviate the miseries of migrant labour. Prof. Vijaya Bahidar suggested looking beyond the short term issues while dealing with the migrant workers issues. He spoke of structural changes fuelled by globalisation that are exacerbating the problems of migrant labour. He also suggested building a network of movements that can tackle the adverse effects of globalisation and pave way for progressive democratic changes.