Skip to main content

South Gujarat tribal migrants victims of govt failure to implement inter-state law

By Rajiv Shah 
A recent study, “Bhil Migration to South Gujarat”, coordinated by Rahul Banerjee and sponsored by two Madhya Pradesh-based NGOs, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and Khet Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, has revealed “solid evidence of the sorry situation of the Bhil tribal migrants in South Gujarat and especially the women and the neglect of their rights by the governments of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh”. In fact, the economic evaluation of the tribals, who mainly hail from Madhya Pradesh, “shows that despite the appalling working and living conditions the migrants are able to take back with them a net income which would not be possible if they stayed back and this is why there is so much migration”.
The study suggests how socially insecure these tribals are by giving a symbolic example. Chovria Pirla, a Bhilala tribal resident of Darkali Village in Sondwa Block of Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh fell from the fifth storey of a building under construction in Navsari town in South Gujarat and died immediately on October 12, 2009. A case of accidental death was registered at the Police Station and the contractor paid his family only the transportation money to take the dead body home.
“This is the stark reality of the insecurity under which the lakhs of migrants from Alirajpur district work in various destination areas in Gujarat”, the study says, adding, “The need to migrate arises from the fact that the average landholding per household in Alirajpur district is less than 1 hectare and the land also is mostly of low quality. Forests too have been decimated drastically reducing the supplementary incomes from minor forest produce and animal husbandry. Development schemes are not implemented properly and are mostly riddled with corruption and have been so for the past few decades. Literacy levels are low and so there is little scope of skill upgradation. Thus, the tribals have perforce to migrate seasonally to make ends meet”.
No doubt, the heavy ongoing economic development in Surat and around has generated a tremendous amount of building and road construction work. But despite mechanisation this is the industry where the demand for unskilled workers to do hard physical labour is at the highest. “This is primarily the sector where migrant Bhil tribals from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra work. Apart from this they also work in rice and sugarcane cultivation which are two agricultural activities that require hard unskilled labour”, the study points out, regretting, “There are no reliable estimates based on detailed sample surveys of the number of people involved in circular migration.”
Thus, of the 809 tribal migrants who who were interviewed in South Gujarat, 60.7 came Madhya Pradesh’s neighbouring districts, mainly Alirajpur, followed by 20.1 per cent, mostly from Gujarat’s tribal areas of Dahod and Tapi. Rest of the migrant workers came from tribal areas of Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The survey — which was based on focused group discussions with tribal migrants — found that the plight of the women workers is particularly appalling.
The study says, “The high proportion of adult female workers almost on par with adult male workers is notable. In fact adolescent females are more in number than adolescent males. The proportion of children and infants together too is quite high at 17.7 per cent and as many as 322 of the focus groups or 39.8 per cent had children or infants with them making things difficult for them as will become clear later. Children and infants in fact outnumber adolescents. The proportion of infants and children are comparatively less as compared to migrants in the brick kiln industry because here the migration is mostly of a short duration of about a month or so.”
Poverty reason for migration: Poverty, clearly, is the main reason for migration. The migrants from Madhya Pradesh back home “have an average household landholding of close to 2 hectares which is the upper limit for the small farmer otherwise all the other categories have landholdings less than 1 hectare which is the upper limit for the marginal farmer.” As for Gujarat’s tribal migrants, who are mainly Dublas from Tapi district, they are mostly landless. “Overall 20 per cent of the families are landless. Among the rest of the landed households as high a proportion as 85 per cent reported having bad quality lands”, the study says, adding, “The average debt burden is Rs 10,242 sourced mainly from moneylenders who served 65 per cent of the respondents and only 10 per cent of households took loans from banks and cooperatives.”
The overall literacy rate is about 7 per cent “and this precludes most of these migrants from doing skilled work and they have to do unskilled labour only”. The study says, “The overwhelming majority of workers are employed from the informal labour markets called Naka. Many workers also find work by themselves by visiting the work sites. A small proportion of workers have found work through their relatives who are already working in the destination areas. Some workers are recruited from their homes by the land owners or contractors who have their mobile phone numbers and vice versa. Cell phones in fact are an indispensable accessory for migrant workers as they keep in touch with their villages as well through these. This helps to keep continuity both at the work place and also at the temporary shelters that they reside in. ”
The study finds “tremendous demand for unskilled labour in Surat and Navsari”, which it says “is revealed by the fact that 95.4 per cent of the migrants work for five days or more a week.” Poor health conditions are widespread among them. “Except for a handful most workers complained that the work was hard and they frequently fell ill as a result. An overwhelming 64.6 per cent of the migrants reside in the open and another 25 per cent in polythene tents. Only some of the groups having masons mostly are able to hire rooms. Thus, along with the hard work this lack of a proper shelter is also a major contributing factor to the migrants being prone to illnesses”, the study reveals.
Poor water, sanitary conditions: Pointing out that sourcing of water is a big problem for the migrants, the study says, “Often the public sources like handpumps, standpipes and wells from which most people get their drinking water are situated at a distance from their place of stay and so considerable amount of time has to be expended in getting water. A very high 30.2 per cent of the migrants have to borrow their water from neighbours and this is an uncertain situation as they have to go to different neighbours every few days given the general under supply of water that affects all poor urban residents.” It adds, “What is of greatest concern is that 9.5 per cent of the respondent groups had to buy water sometimes at as high a price as a rupee a litre. Under the circumstances both the quality and quantity of drinking water supply is very poor and this too affects the health of the migrants.”
The study further says, “The situation with the supply of bathing and washing water is as constrained as that with drinking water and in this case as many as 29.4 per cent of the groups bathe and wash at their workplace itself due to lack of water at their residence places. This, when seen along with the fact that 96 per cent of the respondent groups reported that both women and men bathe and defecate in the open, presents a horrifying picture of the living environment of the migrants. Not surprisingly the level of illness in the groups was very high and only the Dublas were able to access government health services. Among the rest of the migrants, a high proportion of 99 per cent had to rely on private quacks and the per family average cost of medication during one migratory season as reported by the respondents came out to be Rs 415. Some migrants fall seriously ill and have to go back to their homes.”
The study reveals education as a major problem for migrant tribals. Thus, in 76 per cent of cases children remain with their families and there are no facilities for looking after them or educating them so they went along with their guardians to the workplace. During focus group discussions it was found that a few parents “keep their smaller children tied with ropes, tethered like animals, while they worked. Consequently, even if the proportion of children and infants is less due to the fact that there are a number of single males and females in the groups nevertheless for those children the situation is extremely hostile. Not only do they lose out on their education but they also have to bear extreme conditions which almost certainly have a negative psychological effect on their development.”
Among the construction labourers 88.4 per cent did not know the names of their contractors while 98.1 per cent did not know the names of the principal employers. “All the respondents said that they did not have any contact with the police, administration, labour department officials and politicians in the destination areas. A handful of thems said that they were harassed by the police at night in their residence areas. They also said that they had no contact with the police and labour department officials in their own villages. Most people had contacts with their village sarpanches… The most disturbing finding was that none of the migrants surveyed had any knowledge of the laws, policies and institutions that were in place for their protection. This is one of the principal reasons for their not being able to get compensation for loss due to accidents at the workplace that happen quite frequently”, the study comments, adding, “Attempts by the surveyors to interview the lower level officials in Gujarat were fended off by the latter and they were asked to file applications under the Right to Information Act instead. Thus, there is a serious lack of awareness among the migrants and a near total neglect of their rights and entitlements on the part of the government and administration both in the source and the destination areas.”
Status of women workers: During the study “a special set of questions were asked of the women in the focus groups separately by women surveyors relating to problems that were specific to them. All the women said that the lack of privacy was a serious problem especially during menstruation. Nine women reported that they had suffered molestation either by masons or contractors. The women said that they were not at all in touch with government health workers or doctors in the destination areas.” Even back home, “at most they were visited by the Auxiliary Nurse Medic (ANM) once in a while mainly for pulse polio vaccination. They do not receive other support even though the Janani Suraksha Scheme has been running for over five years now. In fact they have to arrange for their own transport to go to hospital for delivery and then pay bribes to the doctor and nurse there. Payments under this scheme were also not made on time and in full to the pregnant mothers. The care of children and cooking are a heavy burden in the destination areas where there is no domestic support. Due to the hard work and unhygienic conditions the women suffer from a variety of reproductive health problems”.
The study says, “The overall proportion of women who have reported having reproductive health problems is 34.9 per cent with the highest being among Gujarat’s Dublas at 60.5 per cent. This is not surprising that innumerable studies have established that there is a strong correlation between poverty and reproductive health problems… The Dublas are economically poorer and earn much less than the other tribals. Studies have also established that women generally under report their problems because in many cases they are not even aware that they have gynaecological problems and even if they are aware the patriarchal taboo against talking about these problems prevents them from expressing themselves freely. Thus, there is a high chance that the actual number of women suffering reproductive health problems is much higher. The women reporting problems have reported ”
The study underlines, “Given the lack of privacy and the unsanitary conditions in which women have to live in the destination areas this is the most serious problem. Apart from this 14 women in Surat have reported that they had to deliver babies in the open. This is an extremely disturbing revelation. Pregnant women in the final months of their pregnancy too are forced to migrate because their is no one to look after them if left behind and then they cannot access the health system in the destination area even in a city like Surat and have to go through labour and parturition in the open. Overall the picture that comes through of the gender situation of the migrants is horrifying to say the least. A detailed reproductive health study of migrant women involving clinical testing will almost certainly provide an even more disturbing picture.”
The study insists that the Government of Gujarat must pro-actively implement the provisions of the Inter State Migrant Workers Act (ISMW), The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, The Workmen’s Compensation Act. “Mechanisms must be put in place to enable migrants to easily lodge complaints against the rampant violations of these laws that are taking place with impunity at present”, it says, adding, “Under the provisions of the ISMW Act the contractor or principal employer is responsible for providing shelter, water, sanitation and health facilities and creches for their children to the migrant labourers and this has to be strictly implemented through the registration and regulation of all establishments in which migrant labour are employed. This is something that the Government of Gujarat has to ensure as on their own neither the contractors nor the principal employers will do this”.

Comments

TRENDING

Zakir Naik tumult, Catholic Church power abuse: will Anwar Ibrahim save Malaysia?

Anwar Ibrahim By Jay Ihsan*  Anwar Ibrahim, a hardcore reformist who took a punch to his eye in 1998 from then inspector-general of police, Rahim Noor, has finally been given the mandate by Malaysians to serve as the nation's 10th prime minister. Anwar knows too well the burden of staying true to both trust and faith the people have in him requires every once of commitment and dedication. The question is will he be apologetic for his transgressions enroute to "rebuilding" Malaysia? In his overzealousness to get the job done, Anwar, 75, needs to safeguard every bit of gumption to address prickling issues plaguing the safety of the nation especially those involving communal sensitivities. For one, dare Anwar get rid of terrorist hate preacher and fugitive Zakir Naik for inciting religious unrest in Malaysia? In November 2016, India’s counter-terrorism agency filed an official complaint against Naik, holding him responsible for promoting religious hatred and unlawful activi

Although sporting genius, Wasim Akram was mascot of cricket globalisation era

By Harsh Thakor*  Since Independence India and Pakistan produced a galaxy of cricketing stars that permeated cricketing artistry of legendary heights. Amongst this bunch.Wasim Akram manifested pure cricketing genius to the greatest height.I speculate how India’s fortunes would have changed had partition not taken place and Wasim playing for India. Wasim Akram explored realms untranscended in bowling wizardry, like a painter devising new art forms or a scientist experimenting. He simply re-defined the art of reverse swing, reversing the ball in and out. There were bowlers quicker, more accurate and with better records, but none equalled Wasim in an all-round package. He was more lethal with a new and old ball than any fast bowler ever. Wasim could produce balls that were surreal, with his reverse swing, defying laws of bio mechanics He was simply the epitome of versatility, possessing a repertoire of six different deliveries within an over itself, disguising deliveries in the manner of

Galileo-Catholic church affair: must history repeat at Malaysia’s St Francis Xavier church?

By Jay Ihsan*  Christianity is the enemy of liberation and civilization -August Bebel Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence -Jacques Maritain Real Christianity can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love people. - Joyce Meyer Pious XI was too neutral to mention the gas chambers; decent people like my own family were turned into devils by crude Christianity - Lionel Blue Religious doctrines cannot escape the liberty of thoughts and expression. To each their own, so it is said. From all things nice to all things that make one cringe - religion is polarised and in this regard, Christianity has over time faced the wrath of bigotry espoused by those "bequeathed" to protect it. Take Pope Francis for example. He had a secret meeting with giant pharma Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla last year while the world struggled to make sense of the word "lockdown" and suffer adverse effects of the Corona virus vaccines produced by Pfiz

Qatar World Cup has a strong Bangladesh connection: stadium construction, t-shirts

By Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan*  The FIFA World Cup fever has unquestionably cut through the minds of mass people all over the world. Stadiums in Qatar are buzzing with football fans and athletes representing their countries at the “Greatest Show on Earth". The magic of the FIFA World Cup is so enormous that even being unable to participate does not matter much to the fans who support different nations. This is one of the highest viewed events in the world, with the 2018 event viewed by about 3.6 billion people worldwide. But this crowd is not aware of the contribution of migrant workers who helped build the very stadiums where the matches are playing in. Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, which got the oxymoron of celebration and controversy. This also created the potential for Qatar to Showcase its monumental economic achievements and unique culture on the global stage. The motto for Qatar’s bid team in 2010 was ‘Expect Amazing’ and migrant workers across th

Floods: As ax falls on most vulnerable, Pak seeks debt cancellation, climate justice

By Tanupriya Singh  Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18. The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November.  Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North. “The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters. By the first week of September, pleas for h

A classic, 'Gandhi' ignores merciless cruelty unleashed on militant freedom fighters

By Harsh Thakor  The movie ‘Gandhi’ produced by Richard Attenborough, which was released 40 years ago on November 30th, 1982, was classic in it's own right. Ironical that it took an Englishman to embark upon the making of a film on this legendary figure. I can't visualize a better pictorial portrayal of Gandhi's life or an actor getting in the skin of the character an exuding the mannerisms as actor Ben Kingsley. Episodes are crafted and grafted surgically, illustrating how Gandhi wove fragmented bits into a cohesive force, to confront he British empire. Most boldly the movie unfolds how British colonialism subjugated the Indian people to barbaric cruelty. With great mastery the cinematography captures the vast Indian landscapes and essence of livelihood of Indians under colonial rule. The movie most illustratively shows the crystallisation of anti-colonial fervour from the embryonic stage and how it fermented into an integrated movement. In a most subtle manner it illustr

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Bangladesh's ties with Myanmar, Nepal, China need connectivity with India's NE states

By Samara Ashrat*  On 26th November, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is trying to improve trade and connectivity with Bangladesh and Myanmar on his two-day visit to India's Northeast region. He emphasized the importance of linking Northeastern India to the rest of the nation and reiterated Delhi is working to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the region. By taking the G20 presidency India will try to showcase the true spirit of the Northeast to the world, with its tourism benefits. But, the umbilical cord between the Indian mainland and North Eastern Region is Chicken's Neck or Siliguri corridor which brings Bangladesh into the Indian equation of northeastern development. Not only that, Bangladesh has very close relations with West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura in terms of language, culture, and history. These factors make Bangladesh an inextricable element of the development of the northeastern states. Tourism Sector and Con

25 years of CHT peace accord: A glorious chapter of conflict resolution in Bangladesh

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder*  Conflicts between the Bangladesh army and Shanti Bahini persisted in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for more than two decades. On December 2, 1997, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the Bangladeshi government signed the CHT Accord, putting an end to the violent armed conflict and improving the life of a lot of the people there. It has been made possible through just seven meetings under the worthy leadership of Sheikh Hasina. The historic peace agreement created an atmosphere of peace in the mountainous region. An atmosphere of peace has been established by ending the armed conflict. The geographical features and ethnic diversity of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are distinctive. The 13,184 square kilometer territory is bordered by Myanmar and the Indian state of Mizoram on the East and Tripura on the North. With its 1.6 million people, it entails great importance to Bangladesh for its geopolitical location. Due to the conflict-prone Northeast Indi

Film on evidence of viability of in situ communitarian urban water management

By Rahul Banerjee  Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that centralised urban water management in India is in deep crisis. Water supply is both inadequate and extremely costly, water harvesting and recharging and used water treatment and reuse are mostly absent and storm water management is a disaster. Under the circumstances, the only viable solution is communitarian in situ water management and this is what has been proposed in the latest guidelines of both the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation and the Swacch Bharat Mission. Our NGO, Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti , has not only implemented communitarian in situ water management but has also carried out research to provide evidence of the unviability of centralised water management and the suitability of the former. Here is a film based on a detailed research that I did on urban water management in Chhattisgarh for the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi, that succinctly critiques cen