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Support to Returning Migrant Labourers and their Families

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Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chatissgarh, Maharashtra

Dignified Livelihoods for ex-Manual Scavengers

What are the challenges?

The sudden COVID-19 lockdown in India triggered the largest mass migration in South Asia since partition, and a humanitarian crisis. Many tens of millions of migrant labourers across India were left homeless and without work overnight. Without the wages they were owed, or any transport, they began to make their way back to their home states, attempting to cross vast distances on foot. Suicide, starvation and psychological traumas among the survivors are widespread. 

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What is the aim of the project?

The project aims to support returning migrants with emergency aid, to connect them with available government schemes, and to facilitate their return to dignified and meaningful work. 

While there are many different government schemes available to help migrant workers and their families, it is often difficult for people to access them, because of lack of knowledge, not having the right documents, not being able to navigate the bureaucracy and issues with the scheme delivery mechanisms. This project builds on our previous work to make sure migrant workers and their families get all the benefits they are entitled to.

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What are the main activities?

This project focuses on two government schemes that provide the most benefit for migrant workers, and aims to implement state-wide solutions with the support of local government and industry, so that current obstacles in accessing the schemes can be overcome. It builds on an intervention last year which provided information and support to 180,000 migrant worker households and connected over 60,000 of them with entitlements. 
The first scheme is the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme. This enables citizens to claim their food ration entitlements when they are outside of their home state. The second scheme is getting access to Building and Other Construction Worker (BOCW) cards and benefits for all those involved in construction jobs (which constitutes a large portion of migrant labourers. There is an estimated $5.6billion currently lying idle in BOCW State Welfare Board accounts. 
We are conducting two pilot projects that will analyse the various obstacles that exist to migrant workers accessing these schemes (through directly assisting thousands of workers to do so). Solutions will be proposed, implemented at a local level and then presented to state governments to implement statewide. We will work to have these systems implemented in at least two states in central, and hopefully four. 

The main activities are:
  • Establishing Migrant Resource Centres at key destination sites
  • Raising awareness among migrant households of, and connecting them to, social security benefits 
  • Funding a toll-free telephone helpline
  • Facilitating the re-recruitment of migrant labourers into non-exploitative jobs
  • Working closely with state and district officials to streamline backend processes
  • Assisting in data analysis and systems improvement
  • Helping the state departments to take ownership of project and statewide rollout
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