Human Rights Issues

Migrant workers in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Human Migration: Reasons and Impact



  • India has used Aadhaar (digital identity) and UPI (digital payments) extensively to address the challenges of identification and financial inclusion in social protection delivery, particularly in the case of migrants.

Who is a migrant worker?

  • A “migrant worker” is a person who either migrates within their home country or outside it to pursue work.
  • Usually, migrant workers do not have the intention to stay permanently in the country or region in which they work.
  • As per the census 2011, the total number of internal migrants in India is 36 crore or 37% of the country’s population.
  • The Economic Survey pegged the size of the migrant workforce at roughly 20 percent or over 10 crores in 2016.


What are the problems faced by migrants?

  • Issues with finding local Employment: Most migrant workers have a seasonal nature of employment. During off-seasons, they struggle to feed their families. Repeated lockdowns made situations more difficult for migrants to find jobs in their localities. They faced travel restrictions which hindered their job search as well.
  • Lack of Insurance Benefits in a Pandemic Environment: Migrant workers work in precarious conditions with little wages and no access to government schemes and services. Poor and unsafe working and living conditions make them prone to diseases. Greater threats of occupational illnesses, nutritional diseases, alcoholism, HIV, and communicable diseases are rampant in the migrant workforce.
  • Issue of timely and Fair Payment of Wages: The informal workforce in India consists of more than 150.6 million regular and daily wage earners. Most of these workers are unaware of their rights as ‘migrant workers. Many unscrupulous agents coerce them and don’t pay minimum wages as per law.
  • Lack of portability of benefits: Migrants registered to claim access to benefits at one location lose access upon migration to a different location. This is especially true of access to entitlements under the PDS.  The ration card required to access benefits under the PDS is issued by state governments and is not portable across states.  This system excludes inter-state migrants from the PDS unless they surrender their card from the home state and get a new one from the host state.
  • Lack of affordable housing: The proportion of migrants in urban population is 47%. In 2015, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs identified migrants in urban areas as the largest population needing housing in cities. There is inadequate supply of low-income ownership and rental housing options.


Government steps for migrant workers

  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana: After the lockdown, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana with a financial package of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore was launched to help poor, needy, and unorganized sector workers of the country.
  • PM SVANidhi Scheme: PM SVANidhi Scheme was launched to facilitate collateral-free working capital loans up to Rs.10,000/- of one-year tenure, to approximately, 50 lakh street vendors, to resume their businesses.
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan: In order to facilitate the employment of migrant workers who have gone back to their home state, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan was initiated in 116 districts in Mission Mode.
  • State migrant cell: Migrant workers’ Cell is being created to prepare a database of migrant workers in states with mapping.
  • eShram portal: It is a national database created to register the unorganised workers in the country, including the migrant workers.
  • National policy on migrant workers: NITI Aayog has been mandated to prepare a draft national policy on migrant workers to reimagine labour-capital relations while integrating the migrant workers within the formal workforce.

How technology could provide Solutions?

  • Providing digital public infrastructure (DPI):  Digital public infrastructure systems that enable the effective provision of essential society-wide functions and services  can enable a paradigm shift, allowing governments to co-create solutions with the private sector and civil society.
  • Adopting Public private partnership models: There are three key areas where DPI can enable public-private partnerships (PPP) in the delivery of social protection of migrants,
  1. Awareness of entitlements: One barrier faced at the initial stage is lack of awareness of entitlements or of the need to reapply, when migrants move from one state to another. Jan Saathi is an application that provides migrants withinformation on eligible social security schemes. Organisations such as Haqdarshak not only inform potential beneficiaries about their eligibility for various schemes, Central or State, but also help them avail entitlements.
  2. Information about livelihoods and housing: The informal nature of the labour market makes access to affordable and safe living conditions a challenge, especially if the family migrates as a unit. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairshas introduced the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes under PMAY-Urban but the availability of such facilities is inadequate compared to the number of migrants. Bandhu’s ecosystem of applications connect migrant workers directly with employers and housing providers, to give them more informed choices. Jobsgaar and MyRojgaar also play a similar role by connecting workers to employers.
  3. Healthy Grievance redressal Mechanism: Gram Vaani bridges the gap in grievance redressal by providing a platform where citizens can use Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to record their grievance in accessing entitlements. Aajeevika Bureau and The Working People’s Charter built the India Labourline to provide legal aid and mediation services to migrant workers.
  • Adopting a well-designed data: While a growing ecosystem of private players (NGOs, civil society organisations, not-for-profit and for-profit entities) are addressing these needs, well designed data exchanges can help unlock a strong public-private collaboration in the delivery of social protection.


What more government can do to address the issue of migrants?

  • Creating centralized data: The state’s digital efforts are often in siloes and the need to maximize the use of data across schemes and departments is a high priority.
  • E-Shram: Initiatives such as direct benefit transfers and linking schemes for the portability of entitlements have shown promise. e-Shram, which is a national database of unorganized workers, aims to reduce access barriers to social protection for migrants.
  • Making portable entitlement: Recent announcements of API-based integration of e-Shram with the various state government labor departments and with the One Nation One Ration Card scheme are a step in that direction.
  • Working with the private sector: Enabling linkages of migrant data with the private sector can lead to benefits on the demand side, in the form of reduced transaction costs in identifying jobs, affordable housing, and redressal of grievances.
  • Engaging the private sector: Private players who have established relationships with these mobile populations can help the state in planning and forecasting the demand for benefits. An example of this is the digital payment ecosystem since the introduction of UPI.


  • Digital technologies have potential solutions to problems and transform the livelihood of migrants. The need for adequate data protection and safeguards is essential for the implementation of any such initiative.

Mains Question

Q.Enlist the problem faced by migrant workers? Elaborate on how use of technology can solve the many problems of migrants.


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