Of the four crore migrant workers in the country, over 25 per cent or 1.05 crore have returned to their respective states due to coronavirus epidemic and ensuing lockdown. Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 32.50 lakh labourers having returned to their homes, followed by Bihar at 15 lakh, Union Minister of State (IC) for Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
The data provided by the government in the Parliament doesn’t have figures from states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Goa among a few others. Given that some of these states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are net sender of migrants, the figure of 1.05 crore could be on a lower side.
Apart from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, about 13.85 lakh migrant workers returned to thier native places in West Bengal, followed by Rajasthan which saw 13.08 lakh workers returning.
Other major states which are witnessing reverse migration are Madhya Pradesh 7.54 lakh, Jharkhand 5.30 lakh, Punjab 5.16 lakh, Assam 4.26 lakh, Kerala 3.11 lakh, Maharashtra 1.83 lakh, according to the government’s reply in the Lok Sabha.
Among the Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir has 48,780 workers returning home, followed by Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, which till today counted 43,747 workers back to the UT.
Based on the last census report, the government had earlier claimed that there are four crore migrant workers in the country.
In a separate answer on migrants, the minister informed that the Indian Railway has operated more than 4611 Shramik Special Trains since May 1 with more than 63.07 lakh migrant workers shifted to various destinations in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and other States. Food and water was also provided free of cost to the workers during their journey, he said.
The government said there have not been any reported cases of forced retention of labourers in the country during the lockdown period.
In an answer to a question by Bhartruhari Mahtab of Biju Janata Dal and Shiv Sena’s Rahul Shewale on the number of migrants labourers dying or injured during the process of migration, the minister informed that there is no such data available with the government.
However, with lockdown restrictions eased now and economy slowly opening up, there are reports of workers from states like UP, Odisha and Bihar slowly returning to cities. This while giving a much needed push to slowed down economic activities would further correct the work-labour imbalance the pandemic induced migration has created both in the cities and rural areas.