Centre Moves to Create Migrant Worker Database, Could Be Ready by June 2021

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the government had come under criticism for not having information on the number of migrant workers in the country.

New Delhi: After the Centre came under criticism for not having a comprehensive database about migrant workers in the country during the crisis that was set off by the COVID-19 lockdown, the labour and employment ministry has moved to build a new database that could be operationalised by June 2021.

According to an Indian Express report, the labour ministry has sought the help of other ministries to build a new database for migrant workers and others in the unorganised sector. The ‘unique registration’ will initially be seeded with data that is available under existing schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’, along with data from the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation.

The database will then undergo a “de-duplication exercise using Aadhaar data”, according to the Indian Express report. Registration for the new portal will follow. The migrant workers can register themselves on their own or through common service centres, the newspaper said.

The National Informatics Centre (NIC) is developing the portal, according to the report and estimates that it will be completed in six months.

The database will also have details of gig and platform workers and other unorganised sector workers, which will be added separately.

Labour secretary Apurva Chandra told Indian Express that funds are now available for the portal.

Though activists have long pointed out that there is a lack of comprehensive data on migrant workers, the issue became particularly evident during the COVID-19 lockdown. With their work curtailed suddenly, lakhs of workers set out on foot to travel back to their native places. In the ensuing crisis, there were many reports of hunger and deaths.

The government was caught unawares, admitting that it did not have data either on stranded workers or the number of migrants who died while travelling back home during the lockdown.

Among other things, this lack of information hindered efforts to distribute food grains, as The Wire has reported.

Also Read: How Much Do We Really Know About the Migrants Who Shuttle Between Bharat and India?

Labour secretary Chandra said that over the next four-five years, the Centre expects 20-25 crore unorganised workers to be added to the portal. He told Indian Express, “There are around 8-10 crore workers registered under NREGA. About 10-15 lakh would be gig and platform workers. One Nation, One Ration card is a big database, around 30-35 crore people under it. But many would be common between NREGA and One Nation, One Ration. So those would be duplications.”

He said some gig and platform workers might already be registered if they had previously worked in the organised sector, which would also need de-duplication. “So, the de-duplication process will take some time,” he said.

The new database will also be the first step towards “initiating social security measures for unorganised sector workers under the Code on Social Security, 2020”, according to IE.

The code proposes the formation of a National Social Security Board which will recommend suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers.