India’s Migrant Crisis
The coronavirus pandemic in the year 2020, spread like wildfire over the world affecting millions of lives spreading to six out of the seven continents in the world, the seventh one being practically uninhabitable. The world’s largest democracy, India faced much of the brunt owing to its substantial population density and poverty. Among the chaos caused by the world-wide pandemic rose the state of the Indian migrants. The aim of this study is to find out the answer to the question- How did we get here?
India, one of the oldest civilizations in the world has been a country rich in natural resources and fertile lands for various civilizations. Thus India has been a very long and complex history of migration spanning generations. The composition of migration has widespread sources. From labor to fulfill the British manufacturing market needs to high skilled IT experts in the modern world, India has been a major emigration source as well. Refugees from economically challenged neighboring nations, asylum seekers have been a major source of immigration in the country
Over the past decades, domestic migration (inter-state or inter-city migration) has seen exponential growth owing to the improvement of means of communication and transport. As the charts describe, international migration is nowhere even comparable to domestic migration. A major portion of it has been in search of work. In a nation as diverse as India, states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana have witnessed an enormous amount of migration.
India being a developing country, still remains dependent mainly on agriculture as a source of income and means of livelihood. This owes to a huge volume of migration to states rich in opportunities for agriculture. In recent times, during the pandemic, the volume of migrants was highlighted in rather an unfortunate circumstance as they were left stranded between states of origin and states where they were employed. The plight of the migrant workers has been an eye-opener to the ticking time bomb, which India had been sitting on for quite some time.
The inability to deal with the migrant laborers unearthed a long-standing flaw in the structure of India’s internal migration. Though dealing with the situation is a meticulous and complex task. No plan is a ‘one size fits all plan’ given the diverse nature of the Indian economy and population. The unstructured and inefficiently recorded inter-state movement of people is one of the major concerns looming over the migrant crisis in India. A World Economic Forum (WEF) estimate points to a potential 400 million workers falling below the poverty line.
Certain inefficiencies can be easily pointed out. Few of them are listed below:
- Transport facilities: In the midst of a lockdown where public transport had been practically put on hold, laborers often had to walk hundreds and thousands of kilometers often along with women and children, with no food or even water to drink with them. Adding fuel to fire, many were often arrested on borders for violating restrictions.
- Availability of Food: Though estimates stated stock of a year and a half of ration supplies, supplies never reached the migrants. Unavailability of basic necessities such as food pointed out how primitive India’s supply-chain framework remains in spite of all technological advancements.
- Relief: At least a month after the lockdown was announced did arrange for relief camps for the migrant laborers and most of which remained inaccessible to a vast majority.
In an era of a global economy, a nation that has been one of the fastest-growing for decades, the inability to handle its own migrants points to neglect towards its backbone, its agricultural sector, its farmers, and laborers. It calls for an immediate look into the reasons for the structural failure of India’s migration system, and asks for remedies, in the form of a thorough structured plan. Nonetheless among all the worries in this age, the last thing a nation needs is a structural breakdown of its own foundation.