03 August, 2020
7 Min Read
GS-PAPER-1 Geography – Urbanization
The Covid-19 pandemic has proved that the Indian cities are overburdened and underprepared to provide guaranteed social protection to millions of migrant workers. Due to denial of access to adequate food and nutrition, livelihood, housing and basic amenities like water and sanitation facilities, there has been an exodus of migrant labourers from urban to rural areas.
Further, with over 90% of the population working in the informal economy, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has predicted that as a result of the crisis and subsequent lockdown, about 400 million workers will fall deeper into poverty.
Given the significance of these labourers to urban development, there is a need to address the stark inequalities and make urban spaces in India more socially and financially inclusive.
Issues Faced by Migrant Workers in Urban Areas
Lack of Basic Amenities: According to the recent “Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition” survey by the government, there continue to be glaring gaps in water access in urban and rural India.
Huge Gap in Data About Migrants: Though the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 has specified the role of urban local bodies in registering numbers of migrant worker and disseminating information regarding welfare schemes to them, these provisions are not obligatory.
Challenge of Informalisation: According to the Economic Survey of India 2019, about 90% of India’s total workforce of about 500 million workers is engaged in the informal sector. This made them more vulnerable to the economic crisis induced by Covid-19.
Steps For Making Urban Spaces More Inclusive
Creation of a Database of Migrant Workers: Recognition and identification of migrants is the first step towards a more enhanced framework to provide basic amenities. To begin with, an effort to create a database of migrant workers is most necessary.
Labour Migration Governance System: A fair and effective labour migration governance system for workers within the country is an urgent need of the hour.
Formalisation of Economy: The central and state governments need to continue their efforts to address the informality of the Indian economy, the rural-urban divide, the uneven growth within states and between regions in the country, and the social and economic inequalities associated with the poorest and vulnerable.
Focusing on Public Health Infrastructure: Smart cities project does well by focusing on creation of hard infrastructure for urban renewal.
Supporting Financially: There is a need to expedite the proposed Social Security Fund under the Code on Social Security, 2019.
The global experience shows that migration will continue as long as there is hope, aspiration, and an alternative livelihood option better than those available at home. In this context, the government has the task to build back better urban spaces in India, with a human-centred approach at its core.
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