Gram Vikas has been ensuring better lives and livelihoods for migrant workers from remote Odisha villages through its Enabling Safe and Dignified Migration Project
Published on March 24, 2021 at 5:39 am
Increased access to education and exposure to new technologies are transforming the aspirations of the younger generation in remote villages of Odisha. Migration for work is being seen as an intermediate livelihood option, aiding the transition from a completely primary-sector-based society to a more diversified one. It is a choice fraught with emotional, social and cultural challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown have exacerbated some of the difficulties.
The Safe and Dignified Migration Programme of Gram Vikas aims to build a secure mode of migration. Occupational security means the ability of a person to choose to migrate for work or not, with clear information about the prospects and consequences, and for a person who decides to migrate having clear information about the terms and conditions of employment, to find jobs commensurate with their skills, and freedom from exploitation at the workplace. Emotional security denotes the ability of the migrant and the family that stays behind to be in touch with each other and be updated on each other’s well-being on a regular basis and reduced uncertainties during travel. Financial security is about the ability of the migrant worker to transfer earnings to her/his family and for them to access the money, when needed, without incurring high transaction costs and having access to easy options for making remittances, greater savings, access to credit at fair terms and appropriate insurance schemes. Social security denotes the ability of the migrant worker to access social security benefits provided by the government at the destination, and the continuing ability of those left behind to access theirs, including leveraging SHG networks and other mechanisms to ensure that distance does not prevent women and the elderly from accessing their entitlements.
The Programme will cover nearly 70,000 migrant workers predominantly in the Odisha – Kerala corridor, and create an overall impact on about 3,50,000 migrant families at the source location, covering 22 blocks of six districts namely Ganjam, Gajapati, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Nayagarh and Rayagada in Odisha.
The Safe and Dignified Migration Programme is a joint effort of Gram Vikas, Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID) Kerala, Prachodhan Development Society and ESAF Small Finance Bank, Kerala. It builds collaboration with skill training institutions, legal service authorities and industry associations and looks to crate convergence with Odisha Livelihoods Mission, Mission Shakti and the State Labour Department.
First-time migrants are solely dependent on the friendship/social network for migrating and finding jobs, often without any information about their workplace or details of the job they would be doing. This takes out the agency of the individual to make an informed choice regarding the job. Along with the partner organisations, Gram Vikas identifies ethical employers who are ready to be a part of formalising the informal sector. It provides information about the job such as wage, social security benefits, employer’s details etc. to the migrants before migrating and helps them to secure a safe and dignified job.
At the village and Gram Panchayat levels, an institutional platform, representing village leaders, women self-help groups and migrant workers’ families, carries out the coordination and convergence with local authorities. The Project will help create a Gram Panchayat-level Migrant Registry for real-time information on migrant workers. A cadre of Community Champions acts as coordinators for village, GP and block-level activities.
The Bandhu Shramik Seva Kendras at Berhampur and Bhawanipatna in Odisha and Thrissur and Perumbavoor in Kerala provide on-site resource support to the migrant workers. These Centres are one-stop locations where a wide range of occupational, financial and social security services are facilitated. At the source, the programme includes up-skilling, financial security and financial and health awareness sessions for the workers before migrating. Transit facilities and awareness about potential jobs is also an important aspect. For migrant households, strengthening SHGs is a priority. They are trained on how to efficiently manage remittances. At the destination, services including placement with trusted employers, healthcare, financial inclusion and awareness and legal matters are being given top priority, hence providing an end-to-end service to the migrants hailing from poorest of poor villages of rural Odisha.
The Programme is building a knowledge base through the creation of Block Migration Profiles, providing extensive information on the social, economic and occupational context of the locations and the people. This will serve as a baseline for future references.
“Opportunistic migration has helped a large number of marginalised households from remote parts of Odisha build better livelihoods options. It also contributes to building greater resilience to climate change-associated vulnerabilities. It is necessary that community institutions, local governments and non-government organisations work together to influence industries’/employers’ associations and government policies to ensure that migration is safe and dignified. I hope Gram Vikas’ programme will be a model for more such efforts,” Liby Johnson, Executive Director, Gram Vikas.
Purun leaves for greener pastures, brings better life at home
“I always wanted to start a business in my village which would help my people. After I migrated to Kerala for work, I was able to save enough money and do what I always wanted to do,” says Purun Chandra Majhi, a 26 years old from Dholpas Nuapada village in Thuamul Rampur block of Kalahandi district. Purun used to work as a cook in a restaurant in Thrissur, Kerala.
Purun studied till the 12th standard and then migrated to Kerala in 2012. He started as a cleaning staff in a restaurant earning around Rs. 8,000 per month. He became the master cook in the same restaurant earing Rs. 20,000 per month by 2018 which provided him with enough savings for his siblings’ education and his marriage.
The restaurant Purun worked in had to close down when the devastating flood hit Kerala in 2018. He had to move to a relief camp for a couple of days. The timely intervention of Gram Vikas flood relief team helped him to stay back and continue to work after the flood. The team also helped him communicate with his family.
Purun has become a role model for his fellow youth by wisely investing his income and raising the standard of living of his family.
His village is poorly connected to the block headquarters where the only bank in the block is situated. Villagers had to make frequent bank visits since most of the families had at least one migrant member. He bought an auto-rickshaw and hired a driver in 2017, believing that it would solve the transportation difficulties in his village. After paying the driver and monthly loan repayment, Purun was able to earn Rs. 10,000 every month. He also invested his savings to open a Kirana store and a rice mill in the village.
(Gram Vikas has been working in Odisha and Jharkhand since 1979 with rural poor and tribal communities to help them lead a dignified life by building capacities, strengthening community institutions and mobilising resources. Lives of more than 6,00,000 people in 1,700 villages have benefitted from the partnership with Gram Vikas.)