NITI Aayog, along with a working subgroup of officials and members of civil society, has prepared a draft National Migrant Labour policy.
Draft policy puts forward several radical ideas including the adoption of a rights-based approach and creating an additional layer of institutions to create a more enabling policy environment for migrants.
Q. What are the proposals of draft policy?
It proposes a new National Migration Policy and the formation of a special unit within the Ministry of Labour and Employment to work closely with other ministries
The new structure would bring about much-needed convergence across line departments and would be a huge step towards a universal understanding of the causes and effects of migration as well as the interventions needed.
The policy calls for improving the record on the implementation of the country’s many labour laws that have, by and large, failed to make a difference to the lives of labour migrants.
The draft policy is clear in highlighting the vulnerability of migrants to such crises and describes the experience of migrants during the lockdown as a “humanitarian and economic crisis”.
The draft contains several radical recommendations that build on those made in 2017 by the working group on migration appointed by the then Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, as well as recent research and policy analyses by leading thinkers in the field.
It seeks to take a rights-based approach and discusses the importance of collective action and unions to help migrants bargain for better conditions and remuneration.
The draft policy makes efforts to bring together different sectoral concerns related to migration, including social protection, housing, health and education. In doing so, it will lay the foundations for the ministries and line departments overseeing these sectors to work together in a more harmonious fashion, speaking the same language and operating on the same underlying assumptions.
The draft mentions the need for convergence across different line departments and proposes the establishment of a special unit at the Ministry of Labour and Employment which will work closely with other ministries. It proposes new management bodies for interstate migration and stresses the need to improve the data on migration, especially data on seasonal and circular migration.
The draft policy also conveys a willingness within government to recognise that the numerous laws and legislation that are in existence have not succeeded in protecting migrants as intended and recommends better implementation.
Q. What are the issues?
The policy needs to delve deeper into the causes underlying the poor implementation of labour laws that are linked to the political economy of recruitment and placement
There is a reference to unfair recruitment practices in the document, but virtually no analysis of why the system persists and how it is enabled by the employment structure of businesses and enterprises.
Another area where the draft needs to be strengthened is addressing gender differences in employment. Domestic work is one of the most important occupations for migrant women from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds. Although the new policy aims to be inclusive of all kinds of marginalised migrants, it could do more to explicitly mention the challenges faced by the workers in such circumstances.
Yet another miss is the apparent ambivalence about the ability of tribal migrants to think for themselves and decide how they access the opportunities offered by migration.