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Portal to assist Indian tribal migrant workers

Church welcomes government move to collect data on internal migrants who account for a major part of the population

Portal to assist Indian tribal migrant workers

Migrant workers head for Anand Vihar railway station in eastern Delhi to return to their villages during the annual Chhat Puja celebration in November 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

The federal government of India has launched a portal for tribal migrant workers that will collect data and help them to benefit from welfare schemes.

The portal, called ShramShakti, will collect demographic profiles, livelihood options, skill-mapping and migration patterns, federal Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda said on Jan. 22.

Munda said the government is facing a major hurdle implementing welfare schemes for migrant workers due to the lack of solid and accurate data.

“The portal to map tribal migrant workers seems to be a proactive measure by the government, though it is a step taken up very late,” said Oraon Father Vincent Ekka, head of the department of tribal studies at the Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute in New Delhi.

“If the government was serious about tribal migrant workers, it should have come to their aid when they were on the road soon after the lockdown was announced. 

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“I would prefer the government to create strategic and infrastructural development plans in the place of origin so that tribal people are empowered in their own villages and would not resort to migrating in search of a livelihood.

“The portal looks like the government is trying to firefight the outcome of a large problem rather than finding a permanent solution at grassroots level. I hope that people will take advantage of the opportunity that is provided by the government.”

Meanwhile, minister Munda acknowledged that tribal people are driven by distress to become migrant laborers and are exposed to difficult and unsafe conditions, but the portal will address the data gap.

He said it will not only help them to connect to existing state welfare schemes but will also help them to find employment and means of income.

Munda, himself a tribal person, also launched a tribal training module called ShramSaathi to help ensure that the process of livelihood migration is safe and productive.

The training will help tribal migrant workers access the services, rights and entitlements related to their livelihood and social security in their villages before migrating to other states, Munda said.

According to the 2011 census, India's internal migrants number around 450 million or 37 percent of the population. This includes inter-state migrants as well as migrants within each state.

There are various reasons for migration. Most female migrants cited marriage as the reason, especially when migration is within the state. For males, the major reasons for migration are employment and education.

Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are the main source states of migrants who are mostly employed in construction, factories, domestic work, textile, brick kilns, transport and agriculture.

They are often denied basic entitlements including access to subsidized food, housing, drinking water, public health facilities, education and banking services. They often work in poor conditions devoid of social security and legal protection.

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