Centre for Development Practice and Research, Patna

Call for Papers - Ebook on COVID-19 and Migrants in India


Date and time: May 20, 2020 10:55PM - June 25, 2020 11:55PM

Call for Papers

 E-Book on COVID-19 and Migrants in India

COVID-19 has been particularly brutal to the migrant workers. More than 80 per cent of them lost their employment and other means of livelihoods. As the Indian State decided to stop trains and bus operations in haste, many destitute and desperate migrant workers started walking to their home towns and villages.  Later, when images of walking migrant workers on highways, cases of accidents and deaths, at times because of starvation started flashing, eventually their problems became headlines of the national and international media. The Government of India, by now unsettled with these developments, changed its position and intra-State movement of workers was permitted; subsequently limited number of train and bus services were also started to carry stranded inter-state workers to their homes. Nevertheless, by then, tens of thousands of workers have/had preferred walking because of either unavailability or very limited number of trains. Reports have brought to our notice instances of migrants being asked to pay full train fare which many of them, of course, could not afford.

Another aspect of Government’s response to dealing with the crises of pandemic was relief package, eventually announced in a bizarre and an episodic manner. Initially, to deal with the COVID-19 related crisis, the Union Government released a relief package of INR 1.70 lakh crore and then on 12 May 2020 another overall INR 20 lakh crore relief package was announced. Beyond the severe criticism for not only being grossly inadequate and neglecting the immediate needs of the poor and migrants, the announced package has left many questions unanswered. In addition, the package could not, as it claimed by many reputed economists and policy analysts, put forward a roadmap for revival of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and promoting the agenda of liberalisation and privatisation. In these contexts, it will be interesting to examine how many of governments initiatives will ‘trickle down’ to ameliorate the conditions of migrant workers. One also needs detailed examination of the short terms measures (relief packages) along with the long term provisions (loan etc.) to gauge the severity of situation and evaluate liberal democracy’s response to this extraordinary situation the whole world is grappling with.

With an attempt to extract maximum gain out of the stressful circumstances in which labourers are, Indian States such as Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan rushed to carry out reforms in their labour laws through ordinances in order to promote labour employment flexibility and relaxed several labour protective measures. These reforms, as ordinances say, are temporary to attract investments and assure investors of trouble free industrial climate in the respective States. At the same time, downsizing of firms have been taking place all along these periods. Several start ups and majority of MSMEs stare at bleak future prospect. All these developments have widened the scope of extraction of labour in the most inhuman ways possible. Caught in this quagmire of unemployment and poverty, a large population of India is suddenly thrown in front of the capitalist class as bait.

In such circumstances it will be challenging to discern the rapidly changing socio-economic and political dynamics of India in particular and South Asia and world, in general. While the number of corona virus infected cases and deaths have continued to rise, albeit at a faster pace in recent times, gradually the discourse is moving from migrants and immediate relief to them to easing of the lockdown, revival of economic and commercial activities, dealing with returnees, facilitating migrants re-return to economic growth centres, elections in states where they are scheduled in near future, and long-term structural reforms in various sectors of the economy including agriculture and services.

The COVID-19, it has been argued, has brought to centre-stage of migrant discourse fault lines in the Indian society such as class, caste, gender, religion and ethnicity that tend to magnify in crisis situations. On the other hand, the failure of the State to stand with and care for its toiling classes, particularly migrants (and also specific sections within migrants) has once again intensified debate how state, democracy, citizenship, market and right to life and livelihoods mean differently to different groups of people. However, the gradual but impending impact of the pandemic is likely to bring about far-reaching changes the way politics functions, push for liberalisation and privatisation is used, urban is reconceptualised and the workers organisations go about organising them.

This e-book will look at myriads of intricate issues – social, economic and political – linked with migrant workers situation during COVID-19 in India and also make an attempt to examine the conditions of migrant workers in post-lockdown or post-pandemic situation. Full papers for this book are welcome on the following (non-exclusive) themes:

1. Social dimensions: social fault lines along caste, class, gender, ethnic and religious lines; ‘social’ distancing; human tragedy; migrants and larger society’s relations; specifically vulnerable migrant communities – Rohingyas, Muslim migrants in Assam, North-eastern migrants in other parts of India, tribals, custodialised communities, destitute, etc.; and religiousity in times of COVID crises.

2. Economic dimensions: short-term and long-term implications for employment and livelihoods of migrants; migrants and economic stimulus package; food security; cash transfer; employment policy; liberalisation and privatisation; future of work and work places.

3. Political dimensions: Federal/unitary polity; State and migrants with respect to their return to natives; State capacity with respect to immediate relief, shelter, feeding, quarantine, differential capacities of states; portability of rights

4. Migrants and urbanisation: housing, rental market, slums and basic amenities, work place conditions

5. Migrants’ long marches, protests and resistance; informal sector, labour reforms, social security, Indian migrant labourers in the Gulf and other parts of the world.

Your full paper should reach the under-signed latest by 25th June 2020. The prescribed length of the paper is between 4000 and 6000 words including footnotes. Shortlisted articles will go through a quick round of external peer reviews. Authors of selected papers will be informed latest by 31st July 2020. The book is likely to go online by the end of August 2020. Efforts will be made to enter into an agreement with a reputed international publisher for hosting it under open access. There will be strong possibility of publication of revised and enlarged papers at a later conducive stage in print form.

Interested authors may send their paper to the following e-mail ID: patnacentre@tiss.edu.

Editors of the Volume

Pushpendra, Professor and Chairperson, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Patna Centre

Amit Ranjan, Research Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.

Shashank Chaturvedi, Assistant Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Patna Centre