Sunday, 19 February 2017

STUDENT GUEST BLOG 1: In Search of Home: The Plight of Migrants and Those Left Behind

J. Ivvan Lendil

This is a summary of the paper presented by Ivvan Lendil of Madras Christian College at Kriya 2017 – The Students’ Seminar on Comprehensive Security – organized by the Department of International Studies, Stella Maris College in the session on Economic and Environmental Security chaired by Raakhee Suryaprakash on February 13, 2017. 

               The sound of the kulfi bell has become a very common one in Chennai. Enjoying late night kulfies is the routine to many youngsters and IT professionals in the city. But the man who brings us this joy suffers great hardship. Most of the kulfi wallahs in Chennai are from Uttar Pradesh and many among them are or were farmers. They leave behind their families in UP and are living here in this city earning a very meagre amount with which they support their family back home. Their visits home are seasonal.
A kulfi wallah in Chennai © J. Ivvan Lendil               Kulfi – “traditional Indian ice cream”

Rural to urban migration has become a serious and increasing menace which is fostered by globalisation. Broadly, the reason for this migration as follows: 
(1) rapid industrialisation of rural areas and 
(2) complete negligence shown by the government towards rural areas.

These two reasons have not only resulted in rural to urban migration but also to international migration. One good example to illustrate the statement can be the migration that’s happened in Sadraskuppam.
Sadraskuppam is a small hamlet in Kanchipuram district located near Madras Atomic Power Plant (Kalpakkam). When you visit Sadraskuppam now all you can find are young children and women waiting their menfolk’s return from Gulf. This mass migration of men has left many families insecure. Talking to the wives left behind one can understand how industrialisation or development projects foster migration. 

Way back in the 1970s atomic power plant construction began in Kalpakkam. The locals at the time were primarily dependent on fishing and agriculture for their livelihood but they never thought that this project harm it. But land was taken from them with the promise that preference would be given to them while recruiting workers for the plant. This remained another broken promise. As the atomic power plant started functioning fish resources depleted. Uprooted from traditional livelihoods and denied jobs at the power plant the locals were forced to search jobs beyond their homes. That’s the time when the Gulf [Middle East] opened its door for them. When a certain set of people were recruited by construction companies in Gulf countries the thought of migrating to Gulf spread like wildfire in the hamlet. It’s very interesting to note that a majority of the village men who migrate to the Gulf are welders. In fact Welding has become hereditary skill in many families in Sadraskuppam since the 1970s.

Some village women break down when one enquires about the working conditions of their husbands. Many of the migrants don’t reveal the hardships they face in the Gulf but the bitter knowledge seeps through. The psyche of the women left behind is also rather pathetic, burdened by depression and physical labour. Women here are the heads of their families. They decide what and where their children should study, “I would never send my child to Gulf, whatever job he does let it be done here itself, I don’t want an another woman to undergo the same stress what I am through right now” were the words of Bakiyam whose husband is currently in Saudi Arabia. These grass widows also stay away from social gatherings like betrothal, weddings etc. as the patriarchal society prefers couples to singles, especially women on their own. 

Picture of Bakiyam showing her wedding photos. © J. Ivvan Lendil

The women’s insecurity increases when their child gets sick and they have to take them to the “city” hospital all alone. The same when their child misses his/her school bus. There are many burdens a patriarchal society puts on a woman head of the family.  But main refrain from the women was “I would never send my child to any foreign country.”
When one examines the local rural to urban migration the problem’s not purely lack of jobs but the unavailability of markets. This January (2017) tomatoes were rolled in streets of Madhya Pradesh, this was because 1kg of tomato was purchased from the farmer by the middle man for just 50 paise. The same applies to all the cottage industry products produced in villages. What’s needed now is proper market reforms from the government side. Moreover when government acquires land for development projects proper compensation needs to be provided with job assurance as early as possible, but this happens rarely. After many years Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam project land compensation judgement was given where SC directed the government to provide Rs. 60 lakhs compensation to the families affected. The delay in receiving compensation increases the burden of the migrating families. 

Serious and urgent steps have to be taken by the government to stop migration threat. Policies with utmost care have to be chiselled taking into account several socio-economic conditions of rural areas in order to stop migration. 

Migration  makes both the migrant and those left being insecure and is a major human security and economic security issue that requires quick attention from the government.


J. IVVAN LENDIL is a pursuing his undergraduate degree in political science in Madras Christian College. Being a huge fan of P. Sainath, Ivvan shows great interest in rural India currently imperilled by rapid industrialisation and globalisation. Ivvan prefers knowledge gained through first-hand experiences in the field rather than dry data from books. Since these issues in rural India need policy changes to be solved, Ivvan aspires to be a civil servant.

1 comment:

  1. Good Ivan...Done well..It looks that you have analyzed in depth of those women folks at Sandra's... Nice efforts..