Bhubaneswar: With the majority of migrant labourers having returned home, it’s time for the Odisha government to map their skills and redraw livelihood strategies for them. That was the general consensus at a national level webinar on mainstreaming migrant workers who are facing unemployment and poverty as uncertainty looms.
The webinar was organized jointly by city-based Focus Odisha Foundation and Mahashakti Foundation, in collaboration with the 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, deliberated on migrant crisis, arguably the most pressing issue in India currently.
A little over one million migrant labourers have registered with the Odisha government’s dedicated COVID-19 website, most of whom have already returned to their native state only to face a bleak and uncertain future amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important for the government to chalk out a strategy for them thereby avoiding the risk of human trafficking and re-migration through alternative pathways, felt the speakers at the webinar.
Executive Director of Action Aid Association India and Co-Chair of World Urban Campaign of UN Habitat Sandeep Chachra underlined the need for rebuilding livelihood strategies and ensuring social safety net both for returnees and informal workers working elsewhere in the country.
Senior Fellow at New Delhi-based The Observer Research Foundation Dr Niranjan Sahoo highlighted the need to ensure legitimate entitlements of migrant workers following alleged denial of their rights across the country.
Odisha head of UNDP Abha Mishra said mapping the skills and knowledge of migrant workers is important so that a line can be drawn between skilled and unskilled people, and a proper plan for restoration of their livelihoods drawn up. She added that natural industries like livestock and diary should be developed, along with focus on nutri-gardens, organic farming, agricultural and tourism.
COVID-19 Civil Society Initiative and Migration Watch India convenor Sudarshan Chhotoray said time has come to recognize talents, skills and knowledge that the migrants have brought in and that the key to unlocking their potential is to put an orderly system in place to reintegrate them in local labour market.