Migrant Workers Crisis in India during COVID-19

Author:   Gopal Krishan, Ruchika Jain
Publisher:   GRFDT
Reviewer:   Deokar Mohini Arjun

Migrant Workers Crisis in India during COVID-19

Gopal Krishan and Ruchika Jain (2020), Migrant Workers Crisis in India during COVID-19: Notion press International Publisher, ISBN- 9781637810385, 167 pages.

Migration is defined as the movement of people from one territory to another due to economic causes, climate issues, political issues, state instability, etc. across national or international boundaries. Nowadays, migration poses a big challenge for the world because while migrating skilled and unskilled rural workers get migrated but during a pandemic or epidemic the migrant workers face many unimaginable problems in their lives. COVID-19 is not the first pandemic faced by India. In 1918 Indians experienced the influenza pandemic, commonly known as the Spanish Flu or Bombay Influenza, which began in Europe towards the end of the First World War, Like COVID-19, the Spanish Flue was also a respiratory disease and spread exactly like the SARS-Cov-virus. It lasted for up to two years and infected over 500 million people which was almost one-third of the Indian population. The death rate was very high because antibiotics were not invented neither the medical research field was advanced for inventing vaccines. In 2003 the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was identified in China and spread to 30 countries. It was an airborne virus and spread through droplets of saliva (like cold and influenza), and indirectly via surfaces. It was the first severe and readily transmitted new disease to emerge in the 21st century.  During this epidemic, the migrant and peasant workers group was the most affected. Many countries declared migrant workers to be focal groups in their anti-SARS campaigns and therefore due to lack of mobility, unity, skills, access to medical facilities, lack of health insurance, and lack of financial sources, many migrant workers lost their lives.

COVID-19 and has severely hit the frontline migrant workers, marginalized communities, and laborers, The book ‘Migrant Workers Crisis in India during COVID-19’ talks about the problems of the migrant workers, marginalized communities and suggest possible solutions to tackle them. This book is an attempt to portray the migrant worker's crisis during COVID-19, government initiatives, and the possible outcomes of these initiatives

This volume is a collection of eleven chapters. The first chapter is an introduction chapter by editor Gopal Krishan. He introduces the migrant labor Crisis during COVID-19 and role of the International Labor Organization and the responsibilities of the government. He also introduces us to migrants' unimaginable problems like food, livelihood, lack of social security, lack of access to all social services, facing abuse, persecution at home and at quarantine facilities, obstacles in seeking employment opportunities, delay in daily wages, inability to fulfil basic needs, exploitation of the female migrant workers, etc. He also gives solutions for overcoming this problem such as how the government can take initiative for providing health services, sickness insurance & worker safety during unemployment as well as wage security during the pandemic.

The author of the second chapter is Ruchika Jain. She aims to study Migration Patterns & the most common problems of female migrants as well as give suggestions to resolve these problems. She introduces us to the problems of the migrant workers who are working in the manufacturing and textile industries in Ludhiana, India. This chapter elaborates some important facts about female migrant workers. In India, so many female workers have migrated to Punjab with their husbands. The majority of migrant labor belonged from Scheduled Tribe (SC) category and most of them are illiterate (70%) & 20% are educated up to primary level & none above middle level. The second important finding is that their employers are not providing sufficient basic facilities resulting in further exploitation of helplessness of the migrant workers.

In the third chapter, Meenakshi Sood and Vinay Kumari talk about the health hazards faced by migrant workers in COVID-19. In India, migrants are particularly vulnerable to health hazards due to emergency safety announcements that affect access to food, shelter, social security, healthcare, and other entitlement. The migrant population is more prone to physical, mental, and social-economical illness during similar situations. In this chapter, the author elaborates the role of migrant workers in national growth and in achieving sustainable development as vital stakeholders of India.

The fourth chapter presents the situation of migrant workers in India during the COVID-19 crisis from various perspectives. The author Preet InderKahlon shows a serious concern regarding the miserable life of the migrants in India and urges employers to create the required facilities for them.

In the fifth chapter, the author Monica Chopra gives the conceptual framework on migrant workers in India. He also explains the concept of migration with numerical data of migrant workers in India. The author categorizes migrant workers in various categories based on migration patterns. He also discussed the various government schemes & policies for the migrant workers and he thought that through these schemes and policies, the government can achieve sustainable growth.

In the sixth and seventh chapters, authors Ahanasen, Shantanu Mallick, and Navneet Bhaskar point out the humongous miseries faced by the migrant workers in India during the nationwide lockdown. The author also sheds light on the measures taken by the Central and state government to combat this type of crisis in the upcoming future.

In the eighth chapter, Ms. Aradhana Rana gives comprehensive information about the Indian government policies, schemes, and laws for migrant workers. This chapter gives an overview of the Indian labor market and its vulnerability during COVID-19.

The ninth chapter is a case study of steel city Mandi Gobindgarh by Sanjeev Modi and Ranjan Goyal. It highlights how governmental schemes benefitted migrating workers during the lockdown. The result shows that although workers gained benefit from various schemes announced by the government, but in reality, most of them have not received any benefits from the schemes

The tenth chapter elaborates on the impact of COVID-19 on MSMEs in India and the government initiatives for resolving the problem of MSMEs. The author P BalaMurlidhar also suggest reviving the MSMEs after the pandemic, and the last chapter by Aanchal Gupta and Anjali Khurana gives an overview of challenges faced by migrant workers in India during COVID-19 but this chapter ends with a positive hope that is every country in the world is suffering due to COVID-19 but we should face it courageously.

Although this book covers a wide perspective on the effect of the pandemic on migrant workers in India, there are some limitations as well. The book chapters are based on primary and secondary data sources. Only one chapter is based on the primary data sources and the limitations of this data collection method is that due to strict lockdown the researcher could not collect the information from the number of migrant workers, some migrant workers do not respond due to their problems and tensions, some workers demanded money and help for giving information, some people gave false information so that they could get some help from the government, the researcher also faced some issues due to pandemic. In the book, most of the research papers are based on secondary data sources because due to lockdown situations researchers have not been able to collect primary data. The second limitation in using secondary data sources is the lack of accurate data about the migrant workers in India.      

Also, all the authors focus on the implementation of the government schemes and policies, but none focus on the civil society and NGOs in India. The role of the NGOs is important because so many NGOs in India are working on the migrant workers therefore, this should have been included in the book as a suggestion for resolving the problem of the migrant workers during the pandemic situation. Another limitation is that the book does not represent all regions of India. If the author had chosen research papers that represent all states in the country while selecting the research paper, it would have better helped to understand the impact of the COVID-19 on the migrant workers in India. The book highlights various issues of migrant workers during the COVID-19 in India but some issues are not covered in this book. these are retrenchment, lack of governmental and employer accountability lack of planning as well as protection for the migrant community which led to them being stranded, issues related to mobility, social discrimination and hostility, lack of migrant data and registration in welfare schemes, issues about the migrant worker's families, migrant workers and suicide, etc, In this book, all the researchers are suggesting the suggestions without strategies, if they suggest the solutions with appropriate strategies then it will help resolve problems of the migrant workers. Except for these limitations, the book is good.

Overall, the book contains a rich collection of research papers by the various authors in India which will be helpful to researchers of sociology, social work as well as development studies and migration studies who wish to study the impact of the COVID-19 on migrant workers in India because it covers all types of impacts and issues with suitable suggestions. The book is balnced in covering diverse range of issues andall contributors have conducted research studies in different parts of the country and expressed their insights as well as suitable suggestions for tackling the issues of the migrant workers in India. The special feature of this book is that the content of the book keeps the reader engaged while reading the book. The book covers the issues of the male migrant workers along with it covers the issues of the women migrant workers, MSMEs, tribal communities, marginalized communities during the pandemic situation in India. It also explains how gender, caste, and educational status become a responsible factor for migration.


Deokar Mohini Arjun is a UGC-STRIDE Research Fellowship holder and currently doing her research on Health issues. She did her Master of Social Work in 2021 from Shivaji University Kolhapur. Email: [email protected]


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