Casting a welfare net
The plight of the migrant workers has been at the forefront of issues arising amid a pandemic. It has underlined the precariously held livelihoods of these people who are bearing the brunt of the lockdown. Apart from hardships encountered by them in reaching their respective states, a searing concern remains over their future. Given the uncertain times that the pandemic has thrown upon us, there is no telling when can these migrants resume jobs they had before the crisis dawned. Deliberating along these lines, the Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday came out with a possible solution to such challenges. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced the establishment of a migrant commission with the objective to provide jobs to these workers who had returned during the lockdown. The said commission, CM apprised, would work to guarantee social security to labourers that would include jobs as per their skills as well as insurance cover. Further, states seeking to employ labourers would need UP government's nod in future. Sunday's announcements follow the state government's step towards skill-based profiling of migrant workers to employ them across the different category of jobs. Though the state recently received flak over the suspension of all but a few labour laws, the aforementioned measures are a step in the right direction as far as the state's demographic is concerned. Lockdown has caused the return of more than 23 lakh migrant workers from across the nation. The large number invariably means a steep rise in the state's consumption of food grains but simultaneously provides Uttar Pradesh with a huge section of workers boasting a variety of skills across sectors. Setting up a migrant commission and skill-mapping workers to employ them accordingly directs to the effective utilisation of human resource at a most basic level. While the state is overpopulated, it is not particularly small. With the advent of new action plans, UP ought to develop the large demographic it has into human capital that will hugely benefit the state. And, while it is focusing on utilising skills of the large stratum of workers, bringing them under the social security net would be a final piece in the puzzle. Through the two key measures announced by the UP CM on Sunday, it appears that the largest state by population appears adamant to turn the tables of fortune for its labour stratum.
While such announcements are bold and visionary, the country has witnessed these in plenty. Therefore, what should follow is an avid implementation of the same with routine reports to assess the progress. UP undoubtedly has a large pool of migrant workers. Skill-mapping workers in itself is a humongous task. Still, the state government has to allocate resources to achieve its targets and thereby furnish gains it makes in providing social security to these workers. UP's model is one that the neighbouring Bihar can adopt owing to a similarly large population of migrant workers. A state-level migrant commission is, in fact, a positive way to approach the glaring issue of the migrant crisis that was highlighted due to the pandemic. UP (0.596) and Bihar (0.576) sit at the bottom of the Human Development Index (2018) of states, comparable to poor and low-developed nations such as Ghana and Angola. Both states would have to travel a significant distance to overcome the deep-rooted socio-political challenges in order to improve the social security of the lower strata living there. Taking the welfare of poor migrant workers in its administrative hand augurs well for Uttar Pradesh only if it reaches the targetted audience in an expedited manner. The crisis prevails and these returning migrant workers require immediate intervention by the state to safeguard their livelihoods. Even if slow and in phases, there has to be a start. UP's bid to secure blue-collar jobs for these migrants would set a positive precedent desperately needed for 4 crore migrant workers across the country.