Representational image
Representational image

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses remained shut and people were urged to stay home, some of the worst affected people had been migrant workers. According to the Centre more than 1 crore migrants had returned home to their respective states amid the pandemic.

It has not been an easy time for them. As news reports over the last few months have narrated, many have faced harsh conditions, subsisting on meagre rations, walking thousands of kilometres in a bid to reach home, and in some cases, passing away or falling sick while travelling. While the Centre's data, as Minister of State Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha last month did not have figures from some of the states. As such, the true number of migrant workers who have returned home may be much higher.

But at the same time, it would seem that going back to their hometowns has not served many of them well. According to a Livemint report that quotes a survey by Inferential Survey Statistics and Research Foundation, a large majority of these 'reverse migrants' now wish to come back to the cities. Reportedly, the income of these individuals have dropped significantly, up to 94% in some areas.

The study was carried out in from July to August 2020 and as per the all India report created by the Inferential Survey Statistics and Research Foundation, a sample of 2917 migrants from 34 districts of 6 major states was used. Reportedly, while there had been an overall decline of 85% income for these reverse migrants, the maximum setback was for salaried wage earners at 88%. Formerly self-employeed migrants also saw their income dip by an overall 86%. This drop was highest for self-employed migrants from UP and Chhattisgarh, reaching up to 100%.

"Uttar Pradesh has the maximum loss of income, by 94.16% followed by Jharkhand 94.02%, Odisha, 92.76% and West Bengal, 87.15%. Bihar has comparatively least loss, still by 65.03% in self-income and Chhattisgarh, by 76.12%. In case of loss of income for self-employed in non-agriculture, Uttar Pradesh suffered loss by 100%. In addition, it has the 100% loss for salaried and wage earners too. Chhattisgarh is another State where loss of income for self-employed in non-agriculture is almost 100%. In case of casual labor in nonagriculture, maximum loss 63.88% is for Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar and Odisha, each by more than 60%. West Bengal suffered the least in this category of occupation by 42.60%," the report adds.

As per the study, while the percentage varies from state to state, a large majority of people want to return to the cities they had recently returned from. "In Jharkhand, the highest percentage of migrants, whooping 92.31% wants to go back and amongst them 98.71% see employment opportunity therein, push factor is tremendous. There may be employment opportunity in the State, but they do not count it, only a fraction says the reason of return as no employment in the Native Place," the report explains.

Uttar Pradesh, the next State from where 89.31% migrants desire to return to Place of Migration, but the reasons are not only favorable employment opportunities but also the belief/whisper that employer’s willingness to give employment on same or more wages. As per the report, Bihar ranks third with 66.81% migrants willing to return, while only 35.43% of the migrants in West Bengal are willing to return to Place of Migration.

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Free Press Journal