March 10, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether migrants are safe in Tamil Nadu. We also look at the success of Indira Rasois in Rajasthan, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is Tamil Nadu safe for migrants from the north?
One of the tenets of the Indian economy is how much it relies on an informal workforce. People move from state to state in search of employment, carrying the hopes and dreams of their families. Cast your mind back to the early weeks of the pandemic when this was no more evident. Migrants from several states scrambled to return home as Covid-19 spread across India.
Now, there’s trouble brewing in Tamil Nadu. Fake videos have been circulated allegedly showing migrants, particularly from Bihar, being attacked and killed. It has set off a political furore among the state’s parties. In light of this, the safety of migrant workers in the state has come under the spotlight. Is there any anti-Hindi speaking bias against north Indian migrants? Or is this due to fake news running amok?
Tamil Nadu is a heavily urbanised state. Large-scale industrialisation over the past decade has attracted workers from across the country. That spread ranges in terms of geographical origin and educational qualifications. For example, those from the Northeast come to work in the BPO and hospitality sectors. Blue-collar workers come from Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar to work in the burgeoning construction/infrastructure sector.
Chennai alone has lakhs of migrant workers. Its manufacturing and services sector has increasingly depended on migrant workers. A decade ago, the stream of inter-state migrants into the state was a trickle. In the years since, the numbers rapidly increased. They became indispensable for the state’s economy.
For lakhs of migrant labourers, the state was a promising prospect with higher wages and better living conditions. They migrate to the state through contractors and settle in places like Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruvallur, and Tiruppur. In the pre-Covid job market, population movement was primarily from rural villages to urban spaces in search of white and blue-collar jobs.
Bihar is one state that’s in focus. The scale of Bihar’s migrant and unemployment crisis was laid bare when 15 lakh workers tried to return during the initial wave of Covid-19. Years of poor policies and governance meant lakhs of poorly educated youngsters moved to states like Punjab, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu.
Getting an accurate estimate of migrant workers in Tamil Nadu is tricky. The state collected migrant data only once in 2015, in the wake of the Moulivakkam multistorey building collapse. Some conservative estimates put the number of migrant workers in the state between 15-20 lakh.
Tamil Nadu is now under scrutiny on whether it’s a safe hub for migrant workers from the north. Many refused to go to work and are leaving. In the wake of the recent controversies, the state’s district collectors have begun to survey guest workers. Chief Minister MK Stalin wants information on their population and working conditions.
Do the events threaten the state’s economic development? Has the DMK government done enough, or has this all been blown out of proportion?
VIEW: There’s no crisis
Misinformation on social media isn’t a new phenomenon in India. The pattern is familiar. Videos circulating on social media and messaging platforms show people being beaten or killed. A narrative quickly takes hold, and the videos go viral. In the most recent case in Tamil Nadu, the police and state officials have reiterated the videos are of incidents that didn’t happen here or are unrelated to the claims made.
The facts, as presented by authorities, are on February 21, one person was arrested for assaulting migrant labourers on board a train in the wake of the incident’s video going viral. The other videos were of past incidents in Tiruppur and Coimbatore and didn’t involve migrant workers.
This quickly became a political issue. Despite the assurances from the police, the BJP in Bihar shared the videos. In a since-deleted tweet, the party’s Bihar unit claimed Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav was celebrating Stalin’s birthday as “12 Bihari workers were killed” in Tamil Nadu. Bowing to pressure from the BJP, a four-member committee was formed to investigate the alleged incidents in Tamil Nadu. For their part, the DMK government was quick to act. They assured Bihar and those on the ground that Tamil Nadu is safe for migrant workers.
COUNTERVIEW: DMK has work to do
One person who doesn’t believe Tejashwi Yadav is poll strategist Prashant Kishor, currently on his Jansuraj Yatra in Bihar. He said the incidents were real and shouldn’t be ignored. While accepting that some journalists shared the wrong video, he said the facts of the incidents were true, and the state was turning a blind eye to the plight of the labourers. On the clarifications made by the police and other officials, Kishor was having none of it, saying they carefully debunked only two videos.
As Tamil Nadu’s local population has moved upwards to skilled jobs that pay more, the resulting vacuum has been filled by migrants. There’s a demographic shift in the state. The state and the current DMK government have spoken in the past about the Centre’s imposition of Hindi. This isn’t to say a cultural clash is widespread, but the state government must be alert and act against any anti-migrant sentiment.
The DMK hadn’t covered itself in glory in the past when it came to outsiders, especially from the north. Top officials from the party have spoken disparagingly of north Indians as “pani puri sellers”. The DMK didn’t take kindly to state BJP president K Annamalai’s assertions that the Dravidian party has long seen north Indians as less than. Some have criticised the Dravidian model’s propaganda for fueling antipathy against non-Tamils.
- Migrant Workers in Tamil Nadu and the Response from Civil Society – Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies
- Tamil Nadu begins survey on guest workers in state – Gulf News
- Why so many Biharis still work as labourers in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and other states – India Today
- How disinformation and politics made migrant workers flee Tamil Nadu – Scroll
- Who Stoked Migrant Labour ‘Exodus’ From Tamil Nadu? – Rediff
- Migrant workers are vital to Tamil Nadu’s economic development, says Industries Secretary – Businessline
- Incidents Of Attacks On Migrant Workers in Tamil Nadu Is Real, Will Release Videos Shortly: DMK Election Strategist Prashant Kishor – Swarajya
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Tamil Nadu is safe for migrants, as the controversy is overblown.
b) Tamil Nadu is unsafe for migrants, and the government needs to do more.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Punjab and the case of manufactured grievances: What Narendra Modi can learn from Indira Gandhi’s Khalistan folly
For the Left:
The Idea of Opposition Unity Is Fading Into the Distance
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Another step in the direction of women’s welfare (Uttarakhand) – At the conclusion of Women Empowerment and Safety Week, Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami, announced the launch of the Mukhyamantri Ekal Mahila Swarozgar Yojana in the state. Women in isolated villages in the state are boosting the rural economy through various self-help groups. This scheme is aimed towards single mothers in the state, and its objective is to equip these women with means of self-employment.
Why it matters: The chief minister of Uttarakhand said that numerous measures have been taken in recent years to keep women at the forefront of India’s development journey, adding that these initiatives will only gain momentum in the years to come. These measures range from financial inclusion to social security, quality health care to housing, and education to entrepreneurship. The chief minister said that all of this was possible because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm of all operations.
Municipal corporation starts cloth bank in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) – Guntur Municipal Council (GMC) has established the first-of-its-kind YSR Cloth Bank to assist the underprivileged as part of the Wall of Kindness Concept near the e-bus bay hub at Lakshmipuram in the city. The goal of this clothing store is to keep the city clean in addition to giving away free clothing to the poor. During her outdoor inspections, GMC head Kirthi Chekuri noticed that several clothes were dumped on the streets, affecting the city’s sewage system and sanitation. After speaking with the authorities, she came up with this creative solution to put a stop to this problem.
Why it matters: This initiative carries a lot of significance because it aims to help the underprivileged people of society who cannot afford basic necessities like clothes. The YSR cloth bank will provide them with clothes, which will not only fulfil their basic needs but also give them a sense of dignity and respect. This initiative promotes the spirit of charity and generosity, encouraging people to donate clothes and help those in need. Moreover, it also takes care of wastes generated from clothing and textiles in a world that is rapidly pushing for sustainable clothing.
UNESCO’s education body shows interest in WB (West Bengal) – According to a government source, a UNESCO-affiliated institution has written to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to show its interest in working with the state’s educational system. A conference between the two parties may take place later this week to discuss the matter after Chief Minister Banerjee instructed officials to investigate a potential partnership with the UNESCO Centre for Lifelong Learning (UIL).
Why it matters: The UIL, which has its headquarters in Hamburg, is one of UNESCO’s major educational institutions and the only UN family organisation with a worldwide mission for lifelong learning. By prioritising its social programmes for the students, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) wishes to collaborate with the government’s educational system, the official source said. The UIL supports and fosters continuous learning with an emphasis on reading, non-formal basic education, adult learning, and ongoing education.
The Indira Rasois of Rajasthan (Rajasthan) – A flagship programme called Indira Rasoi Yojna, worth ₹100 crores, was introduced by the Ashok Gehlot government in August 2020 and fed millions of urban poor people in Rajasthan. It includes a number of semi-rural rasois or canteens that provide a wholesome meal to about 400 people each day at a throwaway price. They have become a lifesaver in their two and a half years of existence for Class IV city employees, migrants, gig labourers, and even police constables.
Why it matters: While the initiative is touted as a populist freebie move to win votes, Indira Rasois provide a whole meal to people at just ₹8. These rasois not only provide quality food to the needy populace, but they also employ a huge number of people across the state. The initiative employs a significant number of women and gives them an experience of a formal workspace, where they take both labour as well as managerial roles.
Manipur Judokas to get a boost (Manipur) – The Manipur Judo Association (MJA), which oversees the expansion and improvement of judo in the state of Manipur, and the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) on Thursday declared a collaboration. The objective is to help Indian Judokas succeed on the international stage by developing an organised athlete development route for the sport of judo in the state.
Why it matters: The partnership between IIS and MJA seeks to acknowledge and further promote Judo as one of the top Olympic sports in the globe. By focusing on the technical elements of the sport and providing targeted programmes, IIS hopes to give India’s future Olympians the best possible opportunities and training. Through this collaboration, trainers with years of expertise will come together to offer Indian competitors the support they need, as well as access to the best facilities and training programmes.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
7.45% – The unemployment rate in India surges to 7.45% in February.