CHENNAI: Over 2 lakh people from Tamil Nadu migrated for employment to 18 countries in West Asia and Africa between 2014 and 2018. According to data obtained by Express from the External Affairs Ministry through RTI, Thanjavur tops the list with 17,980 workers migrating, followed by Cuddalore with 16,141. Most of them went for unskilled jobs.
The data, which pertains to workers who have studied up to Class-X, shows that 63 per cent of those who migrated are from nine districts — Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Madurai, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam, Sivaganga and Tiruchirapallai. Four of these districts are in the delta region, and have witnessed distress in the recent times.
Issues range from water crisis to shrinkage of agricultural land owning, protests against land acquisitions and natural calamities.
“Without sufficient Cauvery water, farm productivity has come down in the delta region over the last two decades,” says PR Pandian, president of Tamil Nadu All Farmers’ Associations’ Coordination Committee.
“When cultivation of Samba or Kuruvai crops fails, an average marginal or small farmer incurs a loss of around Rs 3 to Rs 4 lakh. To pay the debts and save their lands, the farmers’ family members, including women, migrate to other countries for menial jobs,” says Pandian. He added that the intra-state migration has been increasing from Central districts mainly due to dwindling agricultural jobs.
Exodus of sorts in 2015
While 22,126 workers migrated in 2014, the numbers were 73,064 in 2015, 42,542 in 2016, 38,337 in 2017 and 31,588 in 2018
While over 2 lakh people migrated between 2014 and 2018, the highest number was recorded in 2015. The number of people who migrated in these years are: 22,126 in 2014, 73,064 in 2015, 42,542 in 2016, 38,337 in 2017 and 31,588 in 2018.
Mistreatment and exploitation of labourers in West Asian countries is a problem India has been trying to deal with unsuccessfully. A large chunk of complaints come from southern States. Many manage to return home only during the Amnesty window offered in certain Gulf nations.
In Tamil Nadu, collectorates in Madurai, Ramanthapuram and Pudukottai receive complaints from relatives of unskilled workers abroad, about mistreatment by employers.
People who have studied up to Class-X are issued an Emigration Check Required (ECR) passport. This category of passport holders require ‘Emigration Clearance’ from the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs to work in these 18 countries -- Afghanistan, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
This is mainly because these countries neither have stringent laws which regulate the entry of foreign nationals nor provide platforms for grievance redressal. “Only from January 1, did registration with the Home Ministry become mandatory for non-ECR passport holders migrating to these 18 countries. Prior to that there was no official record,” an overseas job consultant said.
“Since education levels have increased in rural pockets, majority of those travelling abroad for work may have been on non-ECR category, which is why the official data is not showing an upward trend,” say industrial sources, explaining why numbers did not deviate much in the five-year period barring in 2015.