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Migrant Workers – A Way Forward to 100 million jobs


Shekhar Gupta has written an outstanding piece today in the Business Standard on Migrants and the tragedy and embarrassment for India. What he has not done is to put forward ideas on “What do we do next”?

Here is one small idea based on the work done by Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) over the last 26 years. Starting small, facing many challenges, BYST has framed standards and set up 5500 micro-entrepreneurs, with the guidance of 7000 trained Mentors and created 250,000 jobs (quarter of million) at last count. Perhaps, more now. And, BYST has developed a tried and tested system of working with local NGOs to identify potential micro-entrepreneurs, trained mentors, assisted with concessional bank loans (to be repaid). And, the track record of repayment by women entrepreneurs is, of course, the very best. The BYST Chairman is Naushad Forbes and the CEO, and driver for 26 years, is Lakshmi Venkatesan.

It is a success story to be replicated and multiplied across the country to create 100 million jobs. Its possible. It can be done. And, it can be a major state-wise, district-wise initiative and movement by the Industry, to supplement the schemes and efforts of Government.

Migrant workers are heading home, to the security of their families. They are unlikely to return to the urban slums they lived in with huge vulnerability to infectious diseases, like COVID-19. The agenda now must be to support them to work and earn in their natural habitat.

In every District, there must be a small team to do just this. Work with local NGOs. Identify those who can start a small business. Find each one a Mentor (and train him/her on a crash basis). Funds will not be a challenge. CSR money from corporates, donations from Foundations, which add up to many thousands of crores, each year, will be the catalyst for this new movement. And, it will be transformational. The BYST case study shows that many micro entrepreneurs are now millionaires providing employment to lots of people. So, today’s migrant is tomorrow’s micro entrepreneur and employer. The true Indian dream. The great advantage of a district focus will be the natural connect with food and agricultural based development, making the whole process unique.

This movement has to be District-centric. Just 2 persons per District to start with – as a nucleus for local development, mentor coordination, entrepreneur identification and NGO cooperation.

Across the country we can create 100 million jobs to bring back dignity and self-respect to Migrant workers. And, let the cities get decongested, healthier for all and find new ways to get work done which migrants did, invisibly, as Shekhar Gupta so eloquently says.

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©2020 by Tarun Das and Ishan Roy.