New offices to address migrant labour issues in Bengal, workers express relief Bangla Sanskriti Manch has been advocating for migrant worker help centres for years

22, May 2023 | Mohammed Ripon Sheikh

For decades, multiple catastrophic incidents following migration for daily wage work have been issues that plagued healthy work culture and steady source of income for the poor and marginalised in India.

While working with organisations like CJP and Bangla Sanskriti mancha, I’ve been acclimated with these workers’ issues multiple times. Economic crisis, housing problems, issues with steady payments, workers’ rights, health issues, travel difficulties and more, continue to make migrant workers’ lives a living hell. After the Covid induced pandemic, it has only gotten worse.

CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program is a unique initiative aiming to give voice and agency to the young, from among the communities with whom we work closely. These presently include migrant workers, Dalits, Adivasis and forest workers. CJP Fellows report on issues closest to their hearts and home, and are making impactful change every day. We hope to expand this to include far reaching ethnicities, diverse genders, Muslim artisans, sanitation workers and manual scavengers. Our raison d’etre is to dot India’s vast landscape with the committed human rights workers who carry in their hearts Constitutional values, to transform India into what our nation’s founders dreamt it to be. Please Donate Now to increase the band of CJP Grassroot Fellows.

Post multiple lockdowns, many workers lost their jobs, some got displaced due to homelessness and health issues. Unemployment hit an all time high and for those who dared to begin their businesses, the expense of supply chain and inventories made them lose their one shot at entrepreneurship. Unable to find work in their own state, the workers of West Bengal are now migrating to different faraway states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

But when a situation that concerns their safety, well being or survival arises, there’s no one to listen to their pleas. The government did not have much information on how many migrant workers from Bengal are going to work in other states. Hence, Bangla Sanskriti Manch, which has been working with migrant workers for a long time in West Bengal, got to work. Their long-standing demand was that the central and state governments should open specific offices for migrant workers and register their names officially. Finally, the state government is accepting their demands and creating a board for migrant workers.

President of Bangla Sanskriti Manch Prof. Samirul Islam says, “the  West Bengal government is going to open the board for migrant workers for the first time in the whole of India. We want the central government to come forward in this matter. The state and the centre have been depriving the workers of their rights, for a long time. We want workers to get their fair wages along with various benefits. If workers are in danger in any state of India, arrangements should be made to rescue them immediately.”

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It has been informed by the West Bengal government that this department will work for the protection of workers. Workers trapped in any state of India will be brought back to their state immediately. A list of migrant labourers will be prepared in each panchayat zone, depending on the respective area of the said migrant worker.

While speaking to a Migrant worker of Birbhum named Alimuddin Shekh, I found a great deal of relief in his tone of speech. He said, “We are very happy with this unique initiative. This should have happened long ago. Now all we want is for the West Bengal government to provide jobs with fair wages to the workers in their own state.”

This report is part of CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program, and has been written by aspiring journalist and student activist Ripon Sheikh from Birbhum in West Bengal. In these reports Ripon looks at the people around him – migrant workers, the families they leave behind, agricultural labourers, women who do housework, rural artisans and young people, with a keen sense of compassion.

Meet CJP Grassroot Fellow Mohammed Ripon Sheikh

Ripon Sheikh

This young man, who has graduated with a B.Sc degree from Burdwan University, loves trivia. Sheikh’s passion to research and seek “unknown information about World History” has earned him many medals and trophies at various University and state-level Quiz championships, and youth festivals. Sheikh is a born orator and a natural community leader. He has the potential to represent his community, state and country at a global level one day. His immediate goal, however, is to find a job so he can support his parents.


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