There are an estimated 139 million migrants in the country, according to the World Economic Forum. The cities of Mumbai and Delhi attract the highest number of migrants; the number of migrant workers leaving Mumbai has been unofficially pegged as high as 25-30 lakh. Migrant workers majorly comprise of daily-wage labourers working in the manufacturing and construction industries. They are often denied adequate healthcare, nutrition, housing, and sanitation since many of them work in the informal sector. With no work and no money, and lockdown restrictions putting a stop to public transport, thousands of migrant workers have been seen walking or bicycling hundreds of kilometres (or even more than a thousand kilometres) to go back to their native villages, some with their families. According to most of them, they would rather die from the virus in their villages than starve because of no work in the city.
“Students For Involved Governance and Mutual Action” (SIGMA) responded to the situation with the idea to connect the migrants with opportunities existing around them so that they don’t have to go far away from their homes in search of work.
The ‘think-tank’ SIGMA, was started by a group of students of IIM Ahmedabad, along with two IAS officers Mr Abhishek Sing and Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal and they currently have students from various other IIMs and IITs. Their goal is to create a platform to leverage the fresh perspective of India’s students for effective and innovative governance.
Resolving the crisis
The helpline – 8800883323 – “ekatra” was conceptualized by the students to help the hiring of the unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers across Delhi-NCR.
“The helpline works two ways, we have both employers and employees on board,” says Shreyash Seth, a third-year undergraduate from IIT Bombay who is a member of the group. “The employers call up and register their demand for the labour, and we connect them to the labourers looking for employment opportunities in that specific region. The migrants can also call and register themselves, and they are connected accordingly to the employers,” he adds. The pilot is being run for the Delhi/NCR region right now, and they are looking to scale it up pan-India. “The project for us is to provide a convincing working model for the government which can be adapted at a bigger scale,” says Harsha Potluri, a third-year UG from IITB. “One of our primary concerns is to make the whole initiative accessible across digital, physical, and telephonic interfaces.”
To keep up with the scalability of this initiative, they are shifting their project from a single helpline number to a hybrid version. “We plan on building an app with multiple languages to accommodate every individual out there,” says Siddhesh Biyani, a second-year UG, from IITB. With over 15k labourer entries obtained from the helpline number, they’ve now adopted an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, as a result of which the numbers have risen exponentially. With their digital platform (android app) under construction, they are currently mapping the labourers to employers at full pace. They are actively looking into making the helpline accessible to more employees and employers, and they are also reaching out to student communities to get volunteers for mapping, databasing, and connecting the stakeholders. In the long run, SIGMA will be working on many issues and will help in improving the penetration of government policy benefits. They are planning to expand their ‘think tank’ and soon they’ll be opening for new recruitments. Visit their website sigmaforindia.com for more details on their projects.
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