Governance

COVID-19: Bihar profiles returned migrant workers for skills

The industry department has profiled skills of more than 80,000 migrant workers so far

 
By Mohd Imran Khan
Last Updated: Wednesday 20 May 2020
Migrant labourers in India: Photo: Shutterstock

The Bihar government has started profiling and mapping the skillsets of migrant workers returning to the state amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown. 

The state industry department has profiled more than 80,000 migrant workers so far and is likely to speed up the process in view of thousands of migrant workers returning to the state. This is first such move by an Indian state.

A majority of migrant workers, who returned to their native villages, comprised unskilled labourers, according to the findings of the mapping exercise.

The initiative was started on the instruction of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, State Information and Public Relation Department secretary Anupam Kumar said. He added that the exercise will also help collect a database of migrant workers.

Nitish Kumar asked top officials in early May to start skill-mapping of migrant workers, according to an official in the Chief Minister Office.

Going by the state government’s repeated order in recent days, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was the main focus of providing livelihood to unskilled migrant workers. The state is planning to enhance work days to 200 from 100 under the scheme as well.

According to officials, the exercise has revealed that more than one-fourth migrant workers were unskilled and engaged mainly in construction sector. Another 20-25 per cent had no special skills.

The migrant workers who specialised in working in automobiles, textile, plastic, iron and cement factories comprised only a small chunk of the workforce.

Other migrants worked as tailors, mechanics, painters, carpenters, electricians, welders, plumbers, rolling drivers, security guards and self-employed vendors.

Bihar industry Minister Shayam Razak told DTE that the exercise was underway and that officials in the field were collecting details of their work experience and the places they worked for.

He added that the CM has directed that a task force to look into the possibility of employment generation for skilled migrant workers be also set up.

CM Kumar had recently said: “Migrant workers could contribute in a positive way to the state’s economy. The industry department should work on it on a priority basis.”

The state government, however, has no official data of the number of workers from Bihar employed outside the state.

According to an advertisement issued by the state disaster management department, more than 0.6 million migrant workers as on May 19 had arrived in 426 special trains and over 1,000 buses to Bihar from outside states — mainly Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. More migrant workers are likely to reach Bihar by special trains and buses in the coming days.

The advertisement published in local Hindi dailies on May 20 mentioned that Bihar expects to receive 9,18,400 lakh migrant workers by 574 special trains by May 28.

It also announced the number of special trains that will reach Bihar from May 20 till May 28. About 70 special trains will reach on May 20; 77 on May 21; 70 on May 22; 74 on May 23; 68 on May 24; 54 on May 25; 52 on May 26; 47 on May 27; and 62 on May 28.

The government has claimed that special train services will be provided to migrant workers even after May 28 and that it is in touch with other states to bring them back.

The first batch of migrant workers arrived in Bihar on May 2 by a special train from Jaipur.

Bihar has recorded 1,573 cases positive to the novel coronavirus and nine deaths as on May 20. The state has tested more than 50,500 samples so far.

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