Summer University in Social Work 

Interstate Migration: Ethical Dilemmas and Social Work in India

Prof. Saju Madavanakadu Devassy — Rajagiri College, India

According to newly available census data, more than 35 million people migrate within India. In the coming decades, demographic forces, globalization and climate change will increase migration pressures both within and across the borders (
Interstate migration occurs mainly due to social, economic and political reasons, within these, aspirations for increased earnings and better living standards play significant role. It is mainly due to interstate disparity in terms of development and human development indices between different states. Ernest Ravenste "push-pull" theory of migration, neoclassical economic theory (Sjaastad 1962; Todaro 1969) and segmented labour-market theory (Piore, 1979) better explain the economic reasons for migration within India.
Governments both in federal and state level have promulgated many laws to protect and safeguard the migrant population within the country. But still there exist a gap between promulgated laws and its implementation.

Areas of ethical dilemmas

The migrant labourers are especially vulnerable to poverty, powerlessness, and inaccessibility to health services, unstable lifestyles such as insecurity in jobs, lack of skills, alienation from hometown, and lack of community. Moreover, migrant labourers are also not organized, as a result of which, they are made victims of horrendous exploitation. In many cases they are paid less, they don’t receive legal protection, they are unaware of worker’s rights issues, and essentially lack stability.
Most of the migrant workers are working and living in unhygienic circumstances with lack of adequate nutritious food, fresh drinking water and basic health amenities. The long working hours, proneness to substance abuse and unhealthy sex practices affects their health adversely. In addition to that the hostile environment causes health hazards including accidents, injuries and bruises and even death due to minimal work place safety measures. Social isolation and discriminations makes them emotionally unstable. Ration cards, Aadhar Cards and Pan Cards are mandatory to access Public health system, health care services, public distribution system, education system and other social security systems in India. But migrant labours are denied of such provisions due to lack of supporting documents and permanent address. Due to lack of proper safety and accommodation in both work places and home environment the migrant labour family members are prone to abuses (verbal, sexual abuse, domestic violence). Right based approach with special emphasis on protection and participation would enable the migrant labourers to lead a life with dignity and worth.

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