LOW COST HOUSING

LOW COST HOUSING: an Innovative Approach for Migration Workers. Exhibition at Goethe-Institut in Chennai

Prof. Dr. Uta Pottgiesser, Prof. Dr. Reinhard Doleschal,

Due to multidimensional socio-economic causes interstate migration is a common feature in India. The basic push factors for migration are lack of employment, prevalence of under-employment and intermittent employment work.

According to the 2001 Census 309 million people, approx.30% of the Indian population were identified as migrants based on their last place of residence. This figure indicates an increase of 37 % compared to the Census data of 1991. It can be assumed that the number is still rising.

Migration workers are generally illiterate and are in search of livelihood, and they usually fall into a highly exploitive recruitment system through contractors and their agents. This manifests in the inhuman working and living conditions and acquiescence by the migrants of the terms and conditions of employment as they do not have any option, however violative of law this may be.

Even though wages might be higher than in their native places, migrant workers work for longer hours and their real wages may be lower as they incur higher costs of living, on food, shelter and transport. They live in shanty houses/rooms in slum like localities often on a sharing basis. A few live on the verandas of shops. They have limited access to sanitation facilities and safe water. Their practices of waste disposal pose problems of public health and environment. Their working and living conditions and habits make them suffer from a number of diseases, but their access to public services like health and education is limited. They enjoy very limited protection from labour laws, as well as facing problems of social integration.

Conceived in the 1970s, drafted in the 1980s, and opened for ratification in the 1990s, the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families recognises that “the States Parties concerned shall as appropriate consult and co-operate with a view to promoting sound, equitable and humane conditions in connection with migration of workers and members of their families.”

Even though declared a right, basic needs are seldom taken care of, as the education level is low, the administrative procedures involved cumbersome and measures required costly. As a number of socio economic issues, such as land tenure, etc., are involved, the subject becomes delicate and as a consequence the issues despite being well-known and of high importance are left unresolved.

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