In a first of its kind project in the country, the Maharashtra government has developed a website-based migration tracking system (MTS) application to map the movement of vulnerable seasonal migrant workers through individual identity numbers. The state government’s women and child development (WCD) department launched it as a pilot project in November last year in six districts with a high tribal population including Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Amravati, Jalna, Palghar and Nandurbar.
The MTS project is envisaged to maintain the continuity of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) like nutrition supply, immunisation and health check-up etc. to migrant beneficiaries including children aged up to 18 years, lactating mothers and pregnant women registered with the anganwadi centres. Their migration will be tracked for ensuring the portability of the ICDS for their families in their destination districts within or outside the state until their return to their native places.
Despite recording a huge distress-driven seasonal migration of workers, Maharashtra, like other states, does not have any institutionalized mechanism to enumerate it. So, through this initiative, the state has sought to capture the data of intra-district, inter-districts and interstate migration of such workers. In light of the pilot project, the WCD department has now decided to roll it out across the state, focusing especially on the rural belts.
“As seen during the Covid lockdowns, a large number of women and children had got displaced and missed on their nutrition, vaccination and other services under the ICDS scheme. So, we decided to make a real-time map of the influx and efflux of the seasonal migration so that we can port the facilities to the place of migration with the help of the District Project Officers of that area,” said Maharashtra WCD Principal Secretary Idzes Kundan. “Once they return to their habitats, the facilities can be ported back.”
“Maharashtra is the first state in India to develop such an app for the tracing and porting of ICDS facilities to anganwadi beneficiaries during their seasonal migration,” said Kundan. She said the initiative was kicked off when Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited Palghar in February 2021, where he noticed food security issues among migrant workers, especially women and children.
For the pilot project’s implementation, Maharashtra’s districts tied up with Gujarat’s Surat and Telangana’s four districts including Adilabad, Nirmal, Mancherial and Asifabad. The WCD visited these districts and provided training to their officials in this regard. “To facilitate the project, we have shared the MTS app with both the states. Also, we have redesigned the app in Gujarati for Gujarat, and in English for Telangana officials,” said Tiksha, a Maharashtra WCD official.
The app is the brainchild of Chandrapur district CEO Mittali Sethi, with the WCD department later adding more features to customise it as per the needs of anganwadi workers.
Explaining the project’s implementation, Tiksha said the anganwadi workers have to first register the migrating beneficiaries from their areas on the MTS website app on their laptops or mobile phones by using the workers’ identity cards like Aadhar, PAN card, or ration cards etc. “Other than names, the anganwadi workers have to mention the age, weight, height of the migrant children, who will be placed in nutritional categories like severe, moderate or acute. Depending on this data, the nutrition benefits will be assigned to the children in their new locations.”
On the MTS app, the anganwadi workers would also collect details about various informal sectors — such as brick kilns, agriculture labor, stone crushing, construction work, sugarcane cutting or sugar factory — where the migrant workers are headed along with their children. For instance, the app showed that from Palghar as on February 15, a total of 5,010 children between the age of 0 and 6 years migrated with their parents to brick kilns located within or outside Maharashtra. “Such data from the unorganised sector was never available with the state before. With this kind of data, the state can also improve the migrant workers’ informal educational programs and health schemes, and ensure better implementation of MGNREGA,” said Dr Raju Jotkat, a senior WCD consultant.
“The anganwadi workers also have to fill up the contact numbers of the employers in order to facilitate the tracing of the migrants when they shift,” said Tiksha. With the completion of the registration on the app, individual unique identity numbers for migrant workers as well as their children are generated to ensure the portability of the ICDS benefits from their original anganwadi centers to the ones in their new places.
Once a beneficiary migrates to a new district, CDPO (Child Development Project Officer) and beat supervisors of that belt can log into the app’s dashboard and trace her through their field functions and resume the ICDS services for her family. However, there have been many cases where the migrants could not be traced. From Palghar alone as of February 15, a total of 6,462 registered beneficiaries migrated, of which 1,711 could not be found while the tracing of 2,553 others were continuing. A total of 2,174 remaining beneficiaries got their ICDS benefits ported, even as 21 people have returned to their native places.
Dr Jotkat concedes the project’s initial limitations and restricted scope, noting that due to the staff shortage the MTS does not have the mechanism to trace migrant workers in big cities like Mumbai that witness highest migration. “We have plans to tie up with the corporations to assist us in tracing the migrants in cities,” he said.
Till January a total of 36,761 beneficiaries were registered on the MTS app, who were marked as “potential migrants” in the anganwadi workers’ survey, of which 23,487 actually migrated. The WCD department has charted a “Migration Corridor”, which shows the diagram of “out-migration” from Maharashtra’s six districts covered by the pilot project.
Besides logging the inter-district migration in Maharashtra, the app reveals significant details. For instance, most migrant workers from Gadchiroli district head to neighbor Telangana. A high “in-migration” has been recorded in Karnataka from Chandrapur and Jalna districts. The workers from Palghar and Nandurbar migrate to neighbor Gujarat. Madhya Pradesh sees a large influx of seasonal migrants from Amravati. “Jalna is situated in the middle of the state, at an equal distance from Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, with most of the migrants opting to head to the latter. So, with detailed analysis, we would be able to gauge the socio-economic patterns behind it,” added Dr Raju.