By Nitin Kunkolienker
Estimating the number of migrant labour correctly is important during times of crisis such as coronavirus ordered lockdown. The state has substantial migrants deployed in sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, construction, government projects and security and housekeeping services. In addition migrants are also employed in cities doing garbage collection work, as domestic help and in hospitals or nursing homes. Reaching out to the migrants in each industry segment is not so difficult:
Most of the units engaging labour do it through the contractor. It is essential under the law that the contractor is registered with the labour department. It means that, a clear channel exists which can generate details on laborers through the contractor. About 90 per cent of the labour in industrial units can be reached out through this channel.
Companies have to be asked to expedite payment to contractors so that the labour is also paid immediately. This will ease out the financial problem to some extent of the labour. Companies in the pharma sector, continuous manufacturing industry are operating even during the lockdown. It means that the situation of migrants in these industries is not so bad as they continue to be in job even in lockdown.
Migrants work in large numbers in restaurants and in hotels. Most of these hotels and restaurants are located in the coastal belts. Speaking to the top 25 per cent of restaurants and hotels will obviously get the details of at least 80 per cent of migrants engaged in this sector. Tourism stakeholders must be roped in to take up the responsibility of their migrant labour who are deprived of income and stranded without shelter and food during the lockdown period.
This sector can be classified into organized housing projects, commercial projects, industrial projects and individual homes. The construction industry has the highest composition of migrant labour spread in villages all across Goa. There are regular complains of non payments, deferrals, etc, in this sector. The labour commissioner can be help in reaching out to construction migrant workers.
There are so many government projects on going in the state. Contractors are duly registered with the government. It is much easier to reach out to migrants employed in government projects.
Security and housekeeping:
There is no much impact of lock down on security personnel as they continue to be at work during the period of the lockdown. However housekeeping personnel are likely to be engaged to the extent of around 50 per cent knowing the nature of businesses. Many of the establishment which are closed may not completely shut down housekeeping activities. Most housekeeping and security agencies deal with organized sector or government.
Migrants in cities:
Muncipalities and panchayats engage migrant labourer to carry out jobs like sanitation, cleaning of roads, garbage collection etc. Migrants are also engaged as loaders, packers, etc. For these migrants the period of lock down has been tough as overall business has come down sharply. There is unfortunately no channel to estimate their numbers. They can be dealt under a very special mechanism. Perhaps trader or merchants association bodies in each city can come forward and check how best they can contribute.
The state has substantial number of of migrants engaged in the domestic household work. Some stay 24×7 with the family and others work as top maids. They certainly are in critical situation as more than 80 per cent of the families have told them not to come for the work due to social distancing norms .There is no formal data or any process to determine the quantum as the spread is across localities specially where the density of population is high.
This category of people are impacted and we need to look at them very sympathetically. There is no formal channel to arrive at a mechanism to deal with them
Hospitals and nursing homes:
Good number of migrants work in this sector and largely they continue to earn without any impact.
Having explained above cases it will be interesting for the government and trade bodies of Goa to come with a proper understanding of the situation not only from current perspective of dealing with the coronavirus crisis but also from a long-term impact on our demography vis-a- vis business. Like it or not they are an essential segment of Goan life.
The labour department so far never got down to understanding the entire labour value chain made up of migrants. During these current time of coronavirus crisis when reaching out to migrants is important the government has to quickly bring stakeholders together and find out to what extent people are still getting paid from the employers whether the business is open or shut. Enforce the responsibilities of the contractors in looking after labourers. We need to take care that, pressure in taking care of migrants is not shifted to the state treasury.
As on today it is seen that only few people in business specially the Verna Industries Association has been proactive in looking after migrants. It is said that, the pharma association also has done some good work albeit in pockets. It is time that all the local business associations come forward and deal with the impact of migrant labourers and other affected people and ensure sustenance levels are maintained. This will help us to sustain Goans also at the time of crisis.
The writer is president, MAIT, a national level body of IT manufacturers. He is also a member of the CII National Council.
Getting the numbers right on migrant labourers in Goa
By Nitin Kunkolienker