Migrant Labour: Hidden Powerhouse of the Indian Economy

Over a month ago when Tamilnadu state and India as a nation announced lock down, there was a subtle difference. Tamilnadu gave 36 hours for the people to adapt to the new social norm. India gave 6 hours to its citizens to adjust to the change.

The implementation was needed, but not the suddenness and the surprise element. It was assumed that it was not adequately planned to meet the needs of its citizens. The plight of the migrant labour has clearly indicated the poor planning.

Probably no one realised the actual numbers and the depth of the involvement of the migrant labour in the Indian economy. All the gains of the initial efforts at controlling COVID-19 in India, could be lost for not making adequate plans for the migrant labour.

Tamilnadu, on its part took some initiative in taking care of the migrant labour in the state. But as the lock down extended, other interventions had to be made on their behalf.

Only when migrants started walking long distances to reach their original homes, did the authorities wake up to the reality of the problems of the migrant labour. The accidental deaths of a sizeable number during the journey increased additional concerns to the problems they faced.

A little effort at coordinating government initiatives Both central and state governments and the support of the corporates who had used them could have prevented this hardship.

I attempted to get some links oand pictures depicting some of the stark realities of their long walk home. These are to have a glimpse of the problems they faced.




What made these migrants choose to walk long distances. With no jobs, no wages and no food, they felt they were left with no option but to take resins in getting back to their own villages. This was predicted about lock downs, when implemented without proper planning, anticipating the needs of various sections of the population. The migrant labour were not on the radar of the planners, while planning work from home and stopping all Form of labour.

This blog is not to highlight the failure of planning but for the need to plan for the future. Sooner or later, these migrants who walked or traveled on different forms of transport back home, these same migrants will have to be brought back for the resilience needed for the economy.

Systematic plans must be made for identifying strategies to bring back for the work the migrant workers have been carrying out For the development of the country and its economy.

May be this is the time to organise the migrant labour systems. The states and the centre should devise ways in which the various needs are met.

At present there are contractors who bring in these migrants. The problems faced by the migrants have not been adequately addressed.

Near my home, there is one Odisha Bhavan and another Assam Bhavan. These and similar set up by other states should take the initiative to provide support to migrant labour.

There are problems created by some of the migrant s and or their representatives, which end to be addressed as well.

The role and responsibilities of the corporate and private sector in employing migrant labour should also be clearly defined.

The plight faced by the migrant labour have been indelibly etched in the minds of the people. Fortunately, individuals and organisations with a service mind pitched in and helped the walking migrants as much as possible.

Some gave money and helped them. One traveler reported as he went in his car from the south to the north, that all along the route there were people who were providing food and water to these weary travellers. One set of individuals coordinated with the governments of the sending and receiving states to smoothen the travel process when train services were made available.

You can add your thoughts to these as the government comes to grips with the plight of the migrant labour in the country even as they realise the tremendous contributions to the economic development of the country.

Published by rajaratnamabel

Having completed my undergraduate medical education from Christian Medical College, Vellore, India. Then I had the privilege of completing my Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA. I could also complete my PhD in Chennai, India. Based on my extensive work in nutrition backed by a number of scientific publication, I also received the Fellowship of the International College of Nutrition (FICN). I retired from active service in 2005. Since then God enabled me to be a Consultant Public Health Physician, at the SUHAM Trust of the DHAN Foundation in Madurai. I am involved in providing community based health care support to a large number Self Help Groups in 14 Indian states.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: