Economists demand a plan to turn crisis of reverse migration into an opportunity

Pune: Even as industry is trying hard to get back the labour who has returned to their native places, academicians and agriculture industry experts say that for the labour who does not want to return back to cities, government should try to develop local entrepreneurship. Making skilled labour work on MNREGA work will be like demoting them, they say.

Rambali, is a skilled cook from Gaya in Bihar who has been working for 15 years at hotels in different parts of the country. “I am the sole breadwinner for my family of 8. Now I have applied to get a job card for MANREGA. Even if I get this work, it won’t be enough to feed my family,” said the 29 year old cook.

While speaking at a webinar organised by NSE, DK Joshi, chief economist, CRISIL said, “The objective of MNREGA was to provide opportunities when you do not have opportunities.

Now that the worker is returning to the hinterland and the economic activity is depressed more in the urban than in the rural areas, not everyone who looks for 100 days employment, may get it.”

Analysing the labour situation for Jharkhand, development economist Jean Dreze said, “In Jharkhand, migrant workers generally return home just before the monsoon, to cultivate their fields. Therefore, I do not expect the current wave of so-called reverse migration to make much difference to the agricultural sector in the next few months. It is after the kharif season that a new situation will emerge. Quite likely, many workers will prefer to stay home than to migrate again, as long as there is any risk of even localised lockdowns.”If so, we should expect a huge excess supply of labour.”

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While indicating the possibility of rising poverty among back to home labour force, in an email response, Dreze said, “It is possible that this pool of under-employed labour will eventually turn into an asset for the local economy, but in the short run it is more likely to translate into a fall in labour earnings and rising poverty.”

Industry captains and economists suggest measures to turn this crisis into an opportunity.

Simon Wiebusch, Chief Operating Officer (India) Bayer Cropscience suggested promoting entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector by extending financial and other kind of support, while speaking at the NSE webinar.

“Entrepreneurship like say aggregation of farm produce for companies like Big Basket needs to be supported as we see young people going back.

Every construction worker from Mumbai that is going back to the villages has a mobile phone and we need to think how we can use it to generate income,” Wiebusch said.



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