The United Nations’ International Migrants Day is observed on December 18 to recognise the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.
There are 106 urban local bodies (ULBs) in Odisha and every urban body in the State has more or less migrant populations. Bhubaneswar as the capital city has attracted migrants from both rural and urban areas for better opportunity for business and employment.
Migration has been considered as the persistent problem of Odisha for a long time. The State suffers from distress migration mostly from south west regions including KBK districts. The prevalence of small farmers having small sized land holdings, seasonal unemployment in Odisha forced the people to search for alternate sources of livelihood. Besides, migration is an outcome due to the repeated disasters that strike Odisha at regular intervals. Cyclones, floods, droughts and famines hit the State at different times in different regions.
Due to this, thousands of people from Odisha leave their native village in search of food and employment. They work in brick kilns in the neighbouring State of Andhra Pradesh, the construction sites of the other cities. Besides, nearly thousands of labourers go to Surat.This is a long term migration, mostly in the textile-weaving and diamond-polishing businesses. This migration occurs as a survival strategy and not a step for better livelihood options.
Today there is also mass migration of villages where the whole family migrates in search of job.The number of migrant workers from Odisha to other States is rising steadily. Compared to 55,000 workers migrating from Odisha in 2007, 1.46 lakh left the State in 2015. 87,000 seasonal migrant workers left Odisha to other States in 2008, which rose to 1.05 lakh in 2012, 1.2 lakh in 2013 and 1.35 lakh in 2014. Maximum migrants were from the Balangir district all these years (45,000 in 2015).
Areas with urban centres, administrative head quarters like Bhubaneswar, and business sectors attract the migrants from backward areas where employment opportunities are very less.
Migrant labourers of Bhubaneswar are the construction worker, shop man, rickshaw puller and daily worker. Some are also engaged as street vendor, hawkers, domestic jobs like house and utensil cleaning etc. Lacks of employment in the surrounding rural pockets are the main reason for their migration to the city. In the town they get better wage compared to their villages. Some of them are seasonal migrants.Whenever agricultural starts they go back to their village and during the off – season, they come to the city in search of work.
The migrant labourers of Bhubaneswar generally settle in the Bastis of various slum pockets of the city. Many of them reside in kutcha houses in Basti and some have no house in basti also. In many cases unaffordable rents in slums force them to live at their workplaces, on the verandahs of the shops and markets, shop pavements, railway stations or in open areas in the city in night. Most of the time, they experience harassment by the police and other local authorities.
Bhubaneswar, the fast growing cities in India has lost its earlier planned status due to massive growth of migrant population and the increased informal sector activities in the recent years.During the initial planning stage construction workers, people engaged in service sector were not envisaged as a permanent sector of the city’s growing population.
Migrants constitute a ‘floating’ and invisible population in the society. In low-income regions especially, rural–urban migration is seen as contributing to shortages in the provision of adequate housing, basic infrastructure and services; also to overcrowding and congestion as well as increasing exposure to environmental hazards. In India, internal migration has been accorded very low priority by the Government.
Besides, in the absence of a coherent policy framework and strategy, migration imposes heavy costs on human development through poor labour arrangements and working conditions of migrants, and obstacles in their access to shelter, education, healthcare and food.
There is not enough provision for the housing and other infrastructural facility for the migrant people in the city. They suffer from poor living and working conditions, social isolation and poor access to basic amenities. In fact, cities grow in different ways, which can be difficult to distinguish. It may be through migration or the natural growth of the city’s population. Migration to cities significantly contributes to urbanisation.
Therefore the city should plan for the migrants. Unplanned migration can be a serious problem for the city. Migrant population should be included in the city planning process. If well planned, migration can enhance the dynamism of cities and making the cities healthier, more profitable and more interesting places to live in future.
There is a need to improve institutional preparedness and build capacity for facilitating and promoting migration. Inter-district and inter-state coordination committees may be created to jointly plan institutional arrangements between administrative jurisdictions of sending and receiving areas to ensure service delivery.
Odisha launches special action plan to reduce migration problem. Initially, the action plan would be implemented in Balangir and Nuapada districts.The special action plan has been prepared for intense action in 30 gram panchayats of the two districts to curb migration and facilitate creation of livelihood opportunities for migrant workers within the State. Internal migrants positively contribute to the development of the society. Some of the strategies that need to be adopted to ensure a better inclusion of internal migrants in society include mainstreaming internal migration in a comprehensive manner in policy and national development plans; generating reliable data on all facets of internal migration, particularly on short-term migration and multiple reasons for migration; developing portability of benefits in all government social protection schemes and public services; providing support services for migrants at the source and destination areas and increasing representation of migrants in decision-making processes. Migration helps to minimize regional, socioeconomic, and cultural disparities, and is considered to be an integral component of the development process.
But absence of coherent policy framework poses many challenges in achieving safe migration. There is a need to provide legal or social protection to this migrant population.This will promote safe migration practices in vulnerable communities improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers in cities.