The Union government’s proposed portal for migrants and other workers from the unorganised sector will enrol at least 250 million labourers in next few years and facilitate a single window for their social welfare, according to a top government official.
The first-of-its-kind portal will be linked to various ongoing programmes, such as the medical care scheme Ayushman Bharat, or the subsidised ration scheme Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, and workers will be register directly through their through mobile phones, newly appointed Union labour secretary Apurva Chandra said.
The government also plans to start the first official survey on migration of the Indian workforce, covering both seasonal and long term migration. The portal and the survey may help the government better understand migration patterns, and track movements of welfare-seekers, Chandra said, adding that data on migrants will be collected through various modes.
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“The workers themselves can register through aadhar. Various authorities can also help in this purpose,” he said.
The labour ministry is planning two more surveys on domestic workers and professionals.
The plight of migrant workers, desperate to return home in the middle of the lockdown, sparked criticism of the Union government’s handling of the Covid crisis. The labour ministry, lacking any independent headcount of migrant workers, failed to furnish specific data in Parliament on how many workers lost their jobs and how many died while returning home.
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The ministry said that 10.4 million migrant workers returned home during lockdown, but experts suggested that this was merely the passenger data from Shramik special trains, and did not take into account workers who tried to return by bus, trucks, and other means. According to news reports, several workers and their family members died while trying to walk back or travel in overloaded trucks.
Various estimates suggest that India has more than 400 million unorganised workers, and Parliament’s Standing Committee on labour recently suggested expanding the definition of migrant workers for their exposure to social security.
“It’s good that the government has accepted our suggestion to register unorganized sector workers. If they have set the initial target to enrol 25 crore workers, it means they would primarily target the construction sector as most unorganised and migrant workers belong to that sector,” the labour panel’s head Bhartruhari Mahtab said.
Chandra also backed the recently enacted labour codes. “There will be a definite increase in fixed-term employment. Many industries had told us that they are keen to employ people during rush seasons or they wanted students in part-time work during their recess. Now, all these avenues will open,” he said.