Systematic exclusion and caste-based victimisation aggravated migrants’ plight in Gujarat: Report

Putting a question mark on Gujarat model of development, a report released on May Day pointed out systematic exclusion, caste-based victimisation as main factors responsible for migrants’ plight

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)
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NH Political Bureau

In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat, migrants lack access to urban documentation, 90 % of them are out of the health care system and they face victimization on the basis of their caste and ethnicity, concluded a report released on May Day on Friday.

The report, based on a survey conducted by Ajeevika Bureau – an NGO working with the migrant community – stated that migrants cannot exercise their political rights as – in most of the cases – they lack voter ID cards and other government certified documents.

Migrants face systematic exclusion from urban policies, asserted the report titled “Unlocking the Urban: Reimagining Migrant Lives in cities post COVID-19”.

Stating that the COVID-19 pandemic was not the sole reason responsible for the ongoing crisis for migrant workers but aggravated the already existing crisis, the report said that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed systemic exclusion of migrant workers from India’s urban and labor policies that deprived the working class of basic urban provisions of food, water, housing, sanitation and healthcare facilities.

According to the report that was prepared after interviewing 285 migrants, before COVID-19 hit India, in Ahmedabad, 9% of workers did not have ration cards, 89 per cent did not have voter ID cards and 94 p% lacked access to electricity bills.

Similarly, among 150 respondents in Surat (which has the highest ratio of migrants to locals in the country, forming 58 % of its total population and 70% of its waged workforce) 99% of workers reported lack of access to ration cards, 74 percent were without voter ID cards, and 97 % without electricity bills.

“This is a reason why workers were left out of government benefits during the lockdown. There is a need for enumeration of workers to ensure the benefits reach them. Urban planning should recognize workers,” said Divya Varma, programme manager, policy and partnerships, Aajeevika Bureau.

The workers interviewed for the study had migrated from states like Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar.

The survey also said that majority of the workers were victimized on the basis of their caste and ethnicity. Most of them belonged to scheduled tribes, followed by scheduled castes.

Suggesting that immediate measures should be taken to integrate migrants in public provisioning, the report suggested universalization of PDS, adequate and safe shelter facilities for workers, access to healthcare facilities, and gender-specific measures like reaching out to women migrant workers in order to lessen the plight.

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