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Marginalised Migrants and Bihar as an Area of Origin

Outmigration from Bihar in search of livelihood has been normalised over several decades, with Bihar being one of the topmost states of origin for the migrants. Unemployment rate in Bihar remains higher than the country average. Agriculture has become unviable over the years due to low yields, increasing landlessness and lack of financial support by the state. The return migration to the state in the wake of COVID-19 necessitates that the state generate farm and non-farm employment to address the crisis situation.

The working and living conditions in which migrant workers, who carry out back-breaking work to support the Indian economy in the cities, have hardly remained hidden from the public view. The plight of these workers became a subject of international attention after a nationwide lockdown was announced on 24 March 2020 at 8 pm (to be implemented after four hours). Not only did the state demonstrate total neglect of the marginalised migrants, but it also rendered them stateless, further exposing them to a world of infections, insecurity, and humiliations. With no state support and the loss of employment, the lockdown initiated a painful process for the migrants.

According to a recent survey conducted between 8 and 13 April 2020, 90% of migrant workers in various states did not get paid by their employers, 96% did not receive ration from the government, and 70% migrant workers did not get cooked food (Hindu 2020). Thousands of migrant workers across the country started to walk hundreds and thousands of kilometres to reach their native places. According to the World Bank, in just a few days of the lockdown, around 60,000 people had moved from urban centres to rural areas (Economic Times 2020). Soon, news reports started pouring in that several migrant labourers and their family members, including children, lost their lives on their way back, either out of hunger or road accidents (Rawal et al 2020).

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Updated On : 15th Jun, 2020

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