Empowering Migrant Workers

A member of Prayas distributes information material among the workers on a sugarcane field.
A member of Prayas distributes information material among the workers on a sugarcane field. (Photo: Henrik Rubner)

PRAYAS | In rural India, shrinking gains from agriculture forces more and more farmers to look for alternative sources of income. Outside the harvest season, many of them migrate to urban hubs with high hopes, only to find insecure jobs under precarious conditions. In addition, labour migration also creates severe challenges for the workers’ families who often stay behind. Our project partners Prayas supports migrants as well as their dependents in asserting their constitutionally granted rights.

While the formal sector is regulated by comprehensive labour laws, more than 90 percent of India’s workforce is employed informally and devoid of legal protection. The situation of most seasonal labour migrants is even more severe: Illiteracy, separation from their social environment and a low degree of organisation prevent many workers from asserting their rights against their employers. Moreover, many of the seasonal migrants belong to socially marginalised groups like Dalits and Adivasis and face various forms of societal discrimination. Consequently, working conditions often remain hazardous to health, timings exceed the legal limitations and wages are paid irregularly – or even withheld completely.

In cooperation with RLS, Prayas supports labourers who seasonally migrate to work on distant sugarcane plantations and on construction sides in southern Gujarat. For a better understanding of their working and living conditions, our partner conducts extensive research which forms the basis of their capacity building workshops, where workers can learn about their legally granted rights like access to health and child care, workplace protection and other public entitlements. In their places of origin, as child labour is another pressing issue in the area, Prayas closely cooperates with local schools in order to provide better prospects to young people than migration into precarious work.

In 2017 Prayas undertook a study of seasonally migrant sugarcane harvesting workers of South Gujarat and in 2018 about the working and living conditions of migrant construction workers in Surat city. In 2019 Prayas continues to work in the sectors of construction work in the city of Surat and in the sugar cane industry in rural areas of South Gujarat. For a better understanding of the working and living conditions of sugar cane workers, Prayas will conduct a Time and Motion study.

Our Partners

Initially working on health issues of the Adivasi population of southern Rajasthan, the 1979 founded organisation Prayas soon expanded its area of work to topics like adult education, forest rights and labour. Within the latter, Prayas focus lays on the rights of seasonal migrant labourer and combating child labour.

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