KOCHI: The government’s ‘Athidhi’ mobile app, which will link migrant workers in the state and provide each with a unique identification number, is being readied for launch in April. Proposed by Finance Minister K N Balagopal in the last Budget, the app is being developed by the Comprehensive Health Insurance Agency of Kerala (CHIAK), a nodal agency under the ministry of labour.
The government has allotted `40 lakh for the app. A 2021 State Planning Board study found that there are 31 lakh migrant workers in Kerala, with the majority working in building and construction. The government hopes to bring all of them under ‘Athidhi’.
Sunil K M, additional secretary of the ministry of labour, said the app’s development is progressing. “The Athidhi portal already exists. We expect to launch the app by April,” said Sunil. A CHIAK official said the agency is developing the software. “We will prepare the application in a way that is suitable for all departments, including health, labour, and police,” the official said.
Migrant workers can register either through the web portal or the mobile app and obtain a unique identification number. Experts point out that many schemes exist for the enrollment of migrant workers and their welfare in Kerala. They, however, have not had the desired impact. For instance, the ‘Aawaz’ card, a health insurance scheme to provide free medical treatment worth `15,000 a year and insurance coverage of `2 lakh for accidental deaths, was introduced in 2018. But according to the department of labour and skills, only 516,320 migrant workers have registered.
Furthermore, last July, the Migrant Workers’ Welfare Board launched the ‘Guest’ app for the registration of migrant workers. The app was developed by the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund Board. But only around 1.5 lakh migrant workers across the state have registered on the mobile app. The Ernakulam district executive officer of the welfare fund board, Nadeera P A, said the app was a one-month drive to register and enrol the details of one lakh migrant workers in the state. “Though the target was one lakh, more than one lakh labourers registered,” Nadeera said.
Benoy Peter, executive director of the Perumbavoor-based Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development (CMID), questioned the need for multiple schemes. “These schemes have proved to be ineffective. Instead of introducing new policies, the government should audit existing ones,” he said. Peter also suggested consulting people working in the field when implementing such initiatives. “Why do migrant workers need to register multiple times? Isn’t it better to consolidate every detail under one scheme?” he asked.
George Mathew, chairman of the Kochi-based Progressive Workers’ Organisation, echoed the view. “The government is issuing many cards and launching many apps for migrant labourers. But these schemes do not result in their well-being,” he said.
He added that these cards and schemes do not lead to the welfare of migrants. “Earlier, there was the Aawaz card. But only 13% of the migrant population benefited from it. While implementing these policies, the government assures their welfare. Thus these labourers submit their details and identity proof to get this done. In fact, many are not receiving any aid from the government,” George said.