India Interior

Skilled migrants and the city

Preeti Mehra | Updated on January 17, 2018

City sisters: Sandhya Behra and Amita Nayak are nursing assistants at Alchemist Hospital, Gurgaon preeti mehra

Pinku Digal and Kishan Kumar work with automobile accessories firm Minda Furukawa preeti mehra

How trained youth from rural India fare in urban work spaces

Yesterday was World Youth Skills Day (July 15), an opportune time to meet some of the country’s rural youth who have recently skilled under government programmes and moved to work in the Delhi NCR region.

Outside their comfort zone and working in the competitive, urban environment for the first time, life can be challenging on all fronts.

Ask 30-year-old Sunny Kumar from Jhajjar district’s Jharli village. Trained in the hospitality stream in Haryana under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) programme for below-poverty rural youth and now placed at a KFC outlet in Gurgaon’s ICD Trade Centre, the young man is on his feet for long hours. But married and a father of two, Sunny remains determined to work hard and “go up fast” in his newly acquired profession.

Nearby, at the Alchemist Hospital are nursing assistants Sandhya Behra and Amita Nayak, both in their early 20s and from Odisha’s Kandhamal district. What keeps the young women going is having each other for company. Living with one more of their mates in a “friendly landlord’s” room in Wazirabad, they share the ₹3,000 rent, the chores and trudge together to work and back. “In Bhubaneswar we were offered a fraction of the ₹10,000 monthly salary we earn here; and though there are many problems living away from home, we are able to send back money to our families,” says Amita.

At automobile accessories firm Minda Furukawa it is the same story. Pinku Digal and Kishan Kumar, trained in the industrial electrical stream, are both sons of farm workers from Kandhamal.

Away from home

Migrating to the city from a rural environment brings with it a host of issues. Usually between the ages of 18 and 25, most of them are first-time migrants who are stepping outside their environment to embrace a totally new life. Often the change in topography and climate is drastic. When you add to this an unfamiliar language and a strange new cuisine, skilled youth find the scenario rather alienating and disconcerting. It is estimated that only 30 to 40 per cent of those who shift to cities like Delhi continue in their jobs after the initial three to four months.

These young aspirants struggle to find suitable accommodation, adequate sanitation and access to water at an affordable price. The living conditions take a toll on their health and morale.

Urban alienation

Sunny says a colleague who joined his outlet from the same training programme left immediately as he could not fit in with the environment. Pinku and Kishan say that over a dozen candidates who moved from their district to work at Minda could not adjust to the climate and kept falling ill. Others were lonely and homesick. “Our mates preferred to work in more familiar environments in places such as Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada or Hyderabad. The water here also did not suit them. Language, food and culture play a big role.”

To bridge this cultural alienation, the DDU-GKY programme has envisaged establishing Migration Support Centres (MSCs) to provide support services and hand-holding to skilled candidates. The first one is up and running, set up by the Bihar government for its migrants in the Delhi-NCR region.

The framework for the MSCs has been fine-tuned based on a pilot initiative in Rajasthan and includes offering skilled migrating candidates opportunities to meet each other, and gain access to shelter, food, counselling support and entertainment.

The pilot project, christened Aanchal, confirmed that these facilities and the feeling of a home-away-from-home that they engendered helped make the migration from rural to urban regions that much easier and tolerable.

Migratory corridors

The country’s internal migration stems from states with large populations and significant economically challenged communities. The states that send the largest workforce include Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Odisha. The key recipients of this movement of labour are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

According to the DDU-GKY’s mapping, the significant migration corridors at the national level are Bihar feeding Delhi NCR, Haryana and Punjab; Uttar Pradesh catering largely to Delhi and Maharashtra; from Rajasthan to Gujarat; and from Odisha towards Gujarat or the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Of late, the south has seen a large number of skilled youth from the North-East seeking employment.

With the Centre’s increased push to skilling the nation’s youth, the movement of labour is bound to only increase. This means that concepts like MSCs would be crucial to reduce attrition. It would also help curb untoward incidents like the one that took place recently in Kerala, when an aspirant from Odisha lost his life after he got lost and was unable to communicate with the local populace.

Published on July 15, 2016

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