Migrant flows will change, they will take time to return to the city, says scientist S Irudaya Rajan

The unprecedented migratory anguish witnessed in India in the weeks after closure shows the abandonment of a massive and critical presence in the country's urban workforce. S , a professor at the Center for Development Studies, has been studying internally and externally. patterns, especially the Gulf. Rajan spoke to Aditya Srinivasan on the future impact of the blockade on migration in India and measures to get it back on track

Why do you think the central and state governments could not account for a massive and vulnerable group like the while framing blocking strategies?

The migrants were never in the mainstream. Policymakers generally neglect them despite the enormous amount of their contribution to families, communities, the economy, and society. Entire cities in India depend on their work and presence, which was evident when large groups of migrants attempted to leave the main urban centers. Because migrants were not in the mainstream, policymakers did not recognize their contribution. A little longer notice period

perhaps three or four days, before the closure had allowed migrants to move. This would have spread the virus, but prevented the mobility crisis from reaching this scale. The crisis is also indicative of the vulnerability of migrants before the blockade. Their lives are precarious even in normal times: jobs are vulnerable and wages are variable. The pandemic only serves to address this everyday vulnerability. We are now talking about your needs as a group and policies related to migration.

When do you see internal migration in India return to pre-block levels?

I expect business to continue as usual in another six months, but it will take one or two years for migration flows to reach pre-closing levels. The extended pause pushed the migrants back to the starting point. Transportation and other infrastructure can be rebuilt, allowing migrants to move once again. But the intensity of migration will not recover unless the industries themselves are rebuilt. The monetary incentive for migrants is likely to return only after an extended period.

Will we see changes in the seasonal migration patterns of 10 million rural migrants?

Distance will now be a more important factor: shorter distances are likely to become the norm. Government actions at the central and state levels will also play a role in shaping circular migration. Employment opportunities in home areas must be strengthened so that those who cover long distances do not become extremely vulnerable. It will also be affected by changes in wages, new employment opportunities, etc., the effects of which are not yet clear. People will probably move when there are better wages and projects coming from urban expansion and development. If cities can shape their political frameworks, circular migration will continue.

The Kerala diaspora is already eager to return. Will there be more migrants running back to India?

Many livelihoods will be lost and this will push people abroad to return. But India itself could face an economic slowdown for months. Those who return to India will have to deal with this double crisis. I hope that at least 10-15% of Indian migrants return to India to overcome the crisis and its consequences. In Kerala, we expect at least 2-3 lakh returnees. But policy and crisis management in destination countries will significantly determine return patterns.

Will there be a change in the migration corridors?

Corridors will likely change, but large-scale changes are unlikely, especially in traditional corridors such as the Gulf. The aspirational value of some dream destinations is reducing, especially the US. Canada, the UK and Australia will likely emerge as new key corridors. The U S and some other countries will become less attractive - both due to the severity of the pandemic and their responses to the crisis, which could create a trust deficit for migrants.

How can industries, especially in the informal sector, prepare for such crises?

Inexpensive packages can help with this problem. Industries must now stick together and report to the government on their losses, mandates and needs. This can guarantee an adequate support system in times of crisis and a reduction in the vulnerability of industries and, by extension, of migrants. Cash transfers, tax breaks, and other measures could be catalysts.

What are the general lessons for other states of Kerala migrant management?

The administration recognized, accepted, and adapted to the role of migration in shaping society. The first lesson is that basic attitudes must change. You cannot speak of economic development independently of migrants. Second, this acceptance vastly improved the speed and efficiency of Kerala's political response. Kerala considered a number of responses ahead of time: Administrators knew that the main issues will be food, housing and containment policy for migrants. Third, reacting quickly also allowed the government to prepare for possible complications. This applies to those who can return from abroad later. Preparing for the future as far as this helps mitigate the crisis in real time. It has also created an investment plan - a return migration investment package that will provide financial support to returning migrants.

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