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NEW DELHI : Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the states that have been most affected by the reverse migration of workers from big cities to their hometowns and villages, suggests the choice of 116 districts under the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA).

As many as 63 of those districts are from these two states and account for a migrant population of over 4.1 million out of the total 6.7 million labourers across six states mapped for the programme, showed the first such data released by the Union government last week.

Of the 38 districts in Bihar, 32 have been selected for the Abhiyaan, while of the 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh, 31 are among the 116 selected by the Centre. Together the two states comprise more than 50% of the most- affected districts in the country, the data showed.The 116 districts have all witnessed reverse migration, with each receiving more than 25,000 migrants.

The issue of reverse migration in Bihar can also have political implications as assembly elections are set to be held in the state in October and November. This is particularly because the aim of the Rojgar Abhiyaan is to provide jobs to those who have come home from different states without any assurance of the source of employment.

“There is no doubt that Bihar is one of the worst-affected states because of reverse migration and during our discussion with these migrants, it is clear that most do not want to return to other states at least for some time. As such, providing employment to these people is of immediate concern. Chief minister Nitish Kumar has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the state will need help from the Union government," said a senior cabinet minister in Bihar.

The scheme, launched by Modi on Saturday, aims to provide jobs to workers in rural areas hit by reverse migration. The four other states under the scheme are Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Odisha.

Analysis of the data showed that as many as 2.36 million migrants returned to Bihar, while 1.75 million came back to Uttar Pradesh. The data corresponds only to the 32 chosen districts of Bihar and 31 in Uttar Pradesh, so the overall figure could be much higher if the rest of the districts are accounted for.

The twin burden of unemployment and resource burden on the local administration can be gauged from the fact that at least 10 districts from both states combined saw return of more than 100,000 migrant workers each. Three of the top districts with highest returnee populations were Siddharthnagar from Uttar Pradesh with 160,000 returnees, and East Champaran and Katihar from Bihar with over 150,000 and 140,000 returnees respectively.

“The reverse migration of workers to states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will have strong socio-economic implications. While some of them are beginning to return to their workplaces now, six months down the line even if half of them remain in their villages or cities, there is going to be huge long term unemployment problem," said Shashikant Pandey, head of department of political science at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow.

“This issue has put the spotlight on the plight of migrant workers, which has largely been ignored till now. It has forced governments to take action, formulate strategies. However, it will take a while to assess how well such schemes function on the ground," he said.

The scheme, which will run for 125 days and has a resource envelope of 50,000 crore, is already in political cross hairs. Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has written to Modi expressing ‘despair’ among people of his state over exclusion from the scheme. Baghel has urged Modi that inclusion of Chhattisgarh would help provide employment to migrants who have returned.

anuja@livemint.com

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