I’m pleased to write the very first entry in our much awaited blog with the hope that this will become a interactive venue for exchange of ideas, experiences, information, views and opinions on the issues of seasonal migration, migrant and informal sector workers in India. The community of organisations and individuals concerned about migrant workers has certainly grown over the past few years. Back in 2004 we were a small, lonely and contrarian voice in the development community – moving rapidly from that time we are now a full throated chorus of initiatives and breakthroughs. I hope this space will connect us all better and help us reach those many thousands who are interested too, and are looking for an opportunity to engage.
Over the past few years we’ve tried to bring into focus the fact that rural migration is a pervasive reality across large parts of India. Starting from this small corner of our country – southern Rajasthan – we’ve attempted to quantify and describe the migration phenomenon from rural to urban labour markets. Through research and firsthand experience we have explored the many complex triggers to this large, often distress-driven, inevitable drift of men and women from their rural homes. Simply not enough land to grow food, not enough employment to earn a living and not enough to aspire for or towards – so people must move. On the other hand the realities of growth are pressing their cruel demands – cheap labour is needed in ever growing numbers to fuel industry and services sector, protection and social security of workers can largely be jettisoned without fear of action and essential services for migrant workers can safely remain beyond the horizon of our collective imagination.
At Aajeevika Bureau we have been tirelessly trying to show what might work. As an organisation committed to working with migrant workers in the vast informal, unorganized space we have tried to design solutions and services to bring lasting well being to this neglected population. Our work now touches nearly a 100,000 migrant workers and it straddles Rajasthan and Gujarat i.e. the source and destination of migrant workers respectively. Our services have gone from offering a simple ID to providing skill training, placement, legal aid, counseling and financial support to migrant workers. There is also a growing range of interventions for families of migrant workers — health services, food security and better government linkages for families facing long term male absence from their midst. A number of new experiments in offering practical services to migrants are underway particularly in their destinations. Tied into all of this is a strong element of advocacy and dialogue with the government – so that change happens at a scale that goes far beyond what we are able to reach. The workers’ collectives and unions promoted by the Bureau are the pillar of this demand.
Rather early on the Bureau’s work began to receive attention from organisations working in similarly high-migration settings. Thanks to some swift moves by our principal donor – Sir Dorabji Tata Trust – a number of organisations from UP, Rajasthan, Odisha, Bihar and Maharashtra were introduced to our work. Several of these organisations soon designed programmes aimed specifically at improving the conditions surrounding migrant workers and have become champions of migrant workers in their own right and geographies. Through the demonstration of its own work Aajeevika Bureau is proud to have played a small role in encouraging new organisations to start work with migrants and their families.
And now finally this blog!
The idea of the blog has been with us for a long time – just so that there is a space available for the large and growing community of individuals to write, share and narrate their experiences and views. Many within the Bureau are itching to contribute and I know that many among our learned partners will also start writing in. There are many events, impressions, anecdotes which are missed out from formal reports. There are views and counter-views which need to be expressed. And of course there are resources that need to be shared. I hope the blog will soon be a high density traffic zone for all.
We welcome you all! I have been warned by some friends that blogging is now obsolete (really??) — twitter and facebook is where we should be! We’ll get there too, one day soon.
Meanwhile welcome all…