Aspiring for a better future is a part of being human
HUMANS have been migrating since time immemorial. According to the UN Migration Agency (IOM), a migrant is any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his or her habitual place of residence irrespective of what caused the movement.
In recent decades, globalization and urbanisation have led to an increase in migration, with people moving in search of work, to flee from conflict or persecution, to escape natural disasters or the adverse effects of climate change. Globally there were an estimated 272 million migrants in 2019, 51 million more than the number in 2010.
On International Migrants Day today, let’s recall the words of former secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon: “Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family.”
The Impact of migration
The positives include better job opportunities, better education for the children, improvement in the quality of life, etc. From a socio-economic perspective, the migration of skilled workers to a region can bring greater economic growth.
On the downside, an influx of migrants to a particular place increases competition for jobs, houses and other amenities. Large populations concentrated in regions put pressure on natural resources and lead to inflation or even conflicts. Rural to urban migrants are often compelled to live in the cities’ slum areas amidst unhygienic conditions, crime, pollution etc. There is a risk of discrimination and exploitation too. If the circumstances of the new place are different from expectations it could impact the social and emotional well-being of migrants and their families.
Migration in India
Migration in developed countries is fundamentally different from that in a developing country like India. People move to a developed country for want of better employment opportunities, higher wages, good educational facilities, urbanization and so on.
However, rural labour migration largely takes place either for survival or subsistence. Severe economic and social hardships force rural workers to migrate in order to stay alive. Subsistence migration is to supplement existing income and fill the gaps in seasonal employment. There are over 140 million migrant workers in India who are compelled to migrate for livelihood opportunities elsewhere.
The recent migrant crisis triggered by the Covid-19 lockdown, grabbed headlines worldwide creating a wave of sympathy. This India-wide exodus of beaten-down humans walking on highways bereft of public transport and their silent suffering is now etched in our collective consciousness. It brought the plight of migrant workers to the forefront and exposed major issues such as the lack of social security.
Though efforts were made by concerned citizens and groups to reach out and offer help, the reach and impact were limited due to the scale and depth of the issue. A major hindrance preventing the government from providing quick assistance directly was the lack of a comprehensive database on the total number of migrants in India, which the government is now in the process of developing.
When workers migrate to a new place, they have to adapt to an unfamiliar language, culture and different social protocols which may cause social isolation. Another major issue impoverished migrants face is proving their identity in the new place which could take years. This results in a loss of access to social schemes and subsidies for food, fuel, health services, or education that are reserved for the economically vulnerable.
While the state machinery makes efforts to solve the issues concerning migrants on a larger scale, we as citizens can reach out and help ease their situation.
Making a difference
Here are some non-profits that are supporting and bringing some relief to the migrants and their families.
- Mobile Creches
Set up in 1969, Mobile Creches’ runs day-care programs for children of migrants working in construction sites across Delhi NCR (Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Noida). The centres focus on health, nutrition and education of these children.
- Diya Ghar
For the last three years, Diya Ghar has helped children from the migrant community in Bangalore through pre-school education in a nurturing environment along with two wholesome meals a day and safe transport to and from their settlements. So far, 400 little ones have benefitted, and joined elementary schools in Bangalore or back in their villages.
- SOS Children’s Village
This independent non-profit organisation works towards holistic development of children belonging to vulnerable families, including those of migrants, and parentless children. They provide food, shelter, education and look after the well-being of vulnerable children and help them grow into confident adults.
- Jan Sahas
In the last 15 years, Jan Sahas has worked with 1 million+ migrant communities to ensure their social protection and safe migration. Their efforts are towards reducing forced labour conditions by raising awareness within the communities, helping them access social schemes, rehabilitation and bring system reforms. Jan Sahas currently works in 48 districts across India. Their aim is to reach 10 million migrant workers by 2025 by scaling our model to 50 additional districts.
- Don Bosco Navajeevan
This organisation works with children living or working on the streets and offers continuous support through a unique program ‘Street Presence’. The educators are ‘present’ round-the-clock at various strategic locations where children enter the city, live or work and have also child rescue booths to protect runaways from any form of abuse.
Let’s mark this International Migrants Day, December 18, by resolving to protect the rights and dignity of migrant workers from socially marginalised segments. You can volunteer with any of these organisations. We urge you to also support their programmes by making an online donation. Every little bit helps. Donate now.
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.