By Anvitha Reddy
The ongoing pandemic has made it difficult to predict as to when things are going to get back to normal. Covid-19 has changed the whole face of this world. There have been various conspicuous changes that have occurred while some changes cannot be seen but can clearly be felt. For instance, the emotional and mental breakdown of the migrant workers can be felt once we start interacting with them. The mass exodus of these migrant workers during the beginning phase of the pandemic has now instilled a sense of insecurity among them regarding their job security, food, accommodation, and income. They are scared as to how their lives are going to turn in this new year.
For instance, a lot of migrant workers in our country are from the construction sector according to the estimation done by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). This sector as a result has also seen an increase in employment over the years. About 36.2% of short-migrant workers are from construction sector itself which apparently is considered to be the highest according to NSSO’s estimation. Furthermore, huge percentage of the construction workers are inter-state migrants. Since these workers are mostly illiterate, they choose to take up these risky jobs and become inter-state migrants arriving at big cities of the country. Despite the fact that these migrant workers are provided with employment through middlemen or contractors, they draw minimal salaries. This makes it impossible for them to find a proper roof under their heads. Let alone their family, they can not afford to rent a home for themselves.
This remorseful situation makes us ponder what’s causing these workers who migrate from their homes in order to escape from poverty to end up in poverty all over again. Also, this situation brings one to think how housing can be made possible for them. Firstly, despite the polices enacted in Labor laws, a lot of building companies in our country tend to not adhere to these rules when it comes to providing them proper salaries, accommodation and sanitation facilities. The fault clearly lies within these building companies. One probable solution for housing facilities for these workers is to allocate the amount collected through construction cess by the builders. This amount can be used to provide rental housing, creches, and sanitation facilities. This will definitely act as a two-way benefit to both the workers and builders as workers would get their basic necessities fulfilled and builders can add this into their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Second solution is that of lowering house-loans or concentrating on low-cost rental schemes. For instance, the Govt of India plans to develop rental housing for migrant workers at an affordable cost. This scheme which is a part of federal housing projects aims to provide housing to all by 2022. The housing will be provided to the migrant workers by converting existing vacant government housing into affordable rental housing complexes (ARHC). The govt has invited private developers to participate in the making of this scheme. The first batch of these houses are likely to be ready by April of this year as around 75,000 vacant housing complexes funded by the govt. have been identified. Moreover, these housing schemes can be accessed by all migrant workers irrespective of their occupations. This is a great opportunity for construction builders to participate in making this scheme successful.
Nonetheless, it is imperative to realize that affordable rental housing won’t just be enough as long as they are deprived of safety and security. As a result, it is important to provide these migrant workers a safe and secure place to live with their families.
Puri. A (2018). “With Rs. 20,000 Crore cess lying unused, construction workers remain homeless.” Retrieved from” https://www.moneylife.in/article/with-rs20000-crore-cess-lying-unused-construction-workers-remain-homeless/53085.html.”
Srivastava.R and Sutradhar.R . “Migration out of Poverty? – A study of migrant construction sector workers in India”.
Dutta.A (2020). “First batch of houses for migrant workers likely to be ready by April.” Retrieved from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/first-batch-of-houses-for-migrant-workers-likely-to-be-ready-by-april/story-y3FqOl8JGsZN8pO76VZbAL.html