Developers believe that union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcements for migrant labour could go a long way in convincing workforce to continue staying in metropolises and curb ongoing reverse migration.
Making her second tranche of fiscal stimulus announcements, Sitharaman highlighted a number of steps that the Centre would take to bring relief to migrant workers. These include provision of food grains to all migrants for the next two months: five kilograms of wheat or rice and 1 kg of chickpeas (channa) per card, per family.
The FM said the move would benefit eight crore migrants, and that the Centre would spend Rs 3,500 crore on this intervention to feed eight crore migrant workers, over the next two months. Sitharaman also announced the start of her One Nation, One Ration scheme, which would see digitisation of migrants’ ration cards.
'Portable Ration Cards Could Incentivise Migrant Labour To Return’
"With this portability, a migrant worker whose ration card is one state and is working in another can take ration at the place of his work," said Manju Yagnik, vice chairperson, Nahar Group.
The move is being considered as the perfect antidote to the mass reverse-exodus in the aftermath of the nationwide lockdown, which has seen migrant workers leave metropolises to villages, in search of food and opportunities in agriculture.
"Providing free food grains to eight crore migrant workers over the next two months and making their PDS cards portable across states will provide an incentive to the migrant works to return to the sites more quickly," said Sharad Mittal, CEO, Motilal Oswal Real Estate Fund.
Where Is The Money?
Not all developers are impressed. "While the decision to hand out rations will benefit migrant workers and help them obtain essentials in a more organised way, some cash component added along with the supply of food grains and provisions would have helped support them better, at this juncture," said Arun MN, founder and managing director of Chennai-based developer, Casagrand.
Ever since the FM’s second tranche of fiscal stimulus announcements, several economists have questioned the lack of income-transfer to migrant workers and the urban poor.
'Affordable Rental Housing To Boost Availability Of Labour'
The finance minister said the Centre was also in the process of formulating an affordable rental housing scheme for migrant workers and urban poor near work locations through public-private partnerships. Developers believe this could be the next big step to ensuring that migrant labour stays near work locations, and not reverse-migrate.
"Affordable rental housing complexes will build trust and give a reason for migrants to stay back adding a feather to completion of ‘Housing For All 2022’," said Ashok Mohanani, chairman, EKTA World, "This stimulus package as a whole will act in a positive note if urgent implementation and planning is followed."
Property consultants believe the move could also lead to more organised town-planning, given the specific earmarking of land parcels for affordable rental housing. "This availability of organised housing facilities will lead to decongestion of urban spaces by reducing unauthorized occupancy and encroachment," said Ramesh Nair, Country Head (India) of JLL, "This in turn will facilitate better town planning."
The government's decision to introduce a uniform wage policy is also poised to end wage-disparity between states. The proposal to merge 44 labour laws into four codes, developers say, could also be a big push towards welfare of these construction workers. "The new labour codes will enable better compliance along with a plethora of benefits for the workers," said Rohit Poddar, managing director, Poddar Housing and Development.
First Published: IST