The Plight of Migrant Workers

One small rural branch in Madhubani district of Bihar was inaugurated by me, but to my utter surprise, when I went for my regular branch visit after one year, I was not in a position to enter the branch.

There was a massive crowd. I suspected whether there was any commotion, but most of the people standing before the branch were sari clad rural ladies and most of them carrying a child in their arms. They are often accompanied by a male member of family.

I called the Branch Manager, who came out and took me inside the branch. He told me that it was a daily phenomenon. Every day ladies come with their passbooks to enquire and withdraw the money remitted by their husbands working as migrant labourers.

The workers on receiving the wages in the account inform telephonically the family members, who in turn withdraw from the account. Daily workers who get cash normally choose Cash Deposit Machine (CDM) for replenishing the account.

Overcrowding was also due to the fact that being a rural branch, its cash retention limit was low, and in order to enable the customers to withdraw their money, the branch had to get remittance from nearby currency chest branch.

This was, however, not the isolated case. I saw similar crowds before my rural branches. Village ladies would refuse to leave the branch even after business transaction hours without receiving the money, and the Branch Manager concerned had to give in.

Today (16th June), on the occasion of the International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, I’m reminded of the plight of those migrant workers and their families that I had seen from my own eyes. This day highlights the great resilience of migrant workers in the face of economic insecurities, natural calamities, industrial disasters and the global pandemic.

In earlier days, migrant workers used to send money by Money Order and their families used to wait for days together for the postman to deliver money. But the greatest catalyst for remittances was the adoption of digital technology by them. Both online and mobile digitalization have buoyed remittance flows thereafter.

To my mind, this is not a financial issue, it’s a human issue, when more than 250 million migrant workers, suffering alone all sorts of miseries and difficulties, send money home to over 800 million family members to make ends meet. I can see the love and attachments here for the family.

Most of the migrant workers, especially labourers, are not much educated, but their families happen to be one. More educated people are often seen in the broken families.

Just think of their plight and feelings of their children. The governments of the day must think of generating employment opportunities locally through their agencies and NGOs.

Only MNREGA scheme is not enough. Village and cottage industries need to be supported and developed and made sustainable. For example, Madhubani district is known for its world class Mithila paintings that are created mostly by women. Its further promotion could be a step forward for women empowerment and a good source of foreign exchange earning too.

Madhubani Painting

Just a push is required. Nobody will come to do it for us. Tomorrow is ours if we do it ourselves. But for that, both soul and flesh should be willing.

–Kaushal Kishore

19 Comments

  1. This excellent post, Kaushal, proves that you are on the right path and that both soul and flesh are willing. Although an outsider, I can see the good sense in your suggested solutions to the improvement of the issues migrant workers and their families are experiencing, especially the development of the outstanding talent of the women’s famous paintings. With your great perception, Kaushal, you have chosen the beautiful painting of the peacocks to illustrate your post.
    The peacock is the national bird of India, associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth. The peacock also symbolizes honor, kindness, respect, and rejuvenation among many other values.
    I cannot think of anyone loving Art who wouldn’t want to have one of the paintings on their wall.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m more than happy, Joanna that you know a lot of things about Indian culture and mythology. Peacock, the national bird is associated with the Goddess Lakshmi. We used to keep its feathers in books with belief that these will bring wealth and wisdom. Its feathers are also supposed to keep insects away. Personally I love Madhubani art and I have some of them in my home. I feel a good market can be created for them.
      As regards the post, I’m hopeful that a solution will be worked out in near term. Thank you, Joanna for your appreciation and kind wishes, as always!

      Like

    1. Where from did you get this impression, Lokesh? I have mentioned only about cash retention limit of branches that is decided by the Bank based on risk and threat perception.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a general question, KK. I have observed the scene in local Dahi branch (Dhar, mp) of Bank of India.

        Your blog post is helpful to understand the complete situation, and possible solutions.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As I said, if the branch is small or in rural or village area, its cash retention limit is low. If there is no sufficient receipt of cash, the branch has to requisition cash from the nearest branch or currency chest. It doesn’t mean that there is a shortage of cash either at branch or bank.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. In describing a situation in India, you are highlighting an international problem, I believe. So many undocumented individuals in the US make the harrowing trip to our borders so that they can send money back to their families. They give so much; we should be making their lives easier.

    And the lovely painting reminds me of what can be accomplished with small loans to impoverished individuals and groups. I think such programs are increasing, but they aren’t keeping pace with the world’s migrants—displaced by climate change and famine, wars, and other factors beyond their control.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Annie for your beautiful and thoughtful reflections. I’m deeply touched by your words. The plight of migrant workers seems to be the same everywhere, but I fully endorse your views that even small helps can bring drastic changes in their lives, as I had seen myself during my tenure in Bihar. Thanks again!

      Like

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