Economy & Nation Exclusive
Migrant workers: Need for an effective policy

Rather than reduce migrants to a factor of production, an effective migration policy must acknowledge migrants as human beings and address their dignity and human rights. The policy should be based on protection of their rights, rather than regulating their movement in the interest of employers

The debate over migrant workforce has become global. All over the world industrial economies have become dependent on the work of Indian migrants, who form a sub-class of people working in jobs with the lowest wages, least security and often in dangerous conditions. 

While on one hand, nations seek to end the spontaneous movement of less skilled Indian workers, on the other, they seek to channel migration into programmes that would deliver Indian migrants to corporate as a contracted workforce. This duality is not unique. The ideas and practice of social inequality, of inclusion and exclusion are very old and take centre stage in today’s debate. These ideas became codified in the ‘legal’ justification for these injustices. Today inequality is being re-created and reproduced by a global economic system. Many countries today experience the growth of political movements of the right, campaigning to end migration, often attacking migrants themselves.

While privatization and end of subsidies are an essential part of economic reforms, the labour displacement thus caused produces migrant labour on a huge scale giving corporations and compliant governments the freedom to exploit workers without regulation or limits. In retrospect, corporations using this displaced labour have a growing interest with those governments in regulating the system that supplies it. 

Consider temporary staffing as an arrangement that adds to the labour flexibility, a critical need for employers to expand their employment opportunities and bring the essential attribute of competitiveness.  

As job attrition increases the displaced labour pool further, the beneficiaries are the corporations that rotate workers, resulting in a forced migration, where workers are often pushed across borders rather than being sought by employers’ world over. 

However, even though the migratory flow caused by displacement is generally self-initiated and majorly a choice made by the skilled workers themselves, the employees thus commoditized often serve an involuntary servitude and are beholden to their employers. 

Today, employee poaching and contractual bonds by employers, as a means to prevent competition are at an alarmingly high. All just to retain the best talent available!

In hindsight it seems obvious that the emerging Indian market trends circa 2000, shows a steady rise. But how long could India boast of the demand on its service industry and foster the continued growth.  

As we continue to be at loggerheads with nations on issues preventing this free flow of knowledge, there has been some rapid technological and Internet-powered innovations underway that even the knowledgeable contemporary observers have failed to grasp their transformation power.  These technological innovations will change the very nature of how knowledge capital will be viewed and used. 

March 2012, we sit again on the cusp of major technological transformations with the potential to rival any innovations in the past century. All find their epicentres in technological innovations: big data, smart manufacturing and wireless technologies.

Information technology has entered the big data era. Processing of power and mass data storage is virtually free. Internet is now evolving into a ‘cloud’ of data centres networked together. The hand held device such as an iPhone has computing power that surpasses what an IBM mainframe could do just less than two decades ago. Social applications helped connect anyone, anywhere across borders reducing the great digital divide. With huge user information available, metadata analysis and the astronomical feats of data crunching, data mapping and data mining, enables unimaginable services and businesses, we are therefore on the cusp of limitless new markets.

Smart manufacturing using nanotechnology—a structural shift since the economic power of “mass production”— we are just entering an era where the very fabrication of physical things is revolutionized by emerging materials science. Engineers will soon design and build from the molecular level, optimizing features and even creating new materials. Devices and products are already appearing based on computationally engineered materials that literally did not exist a few years ago. Novel metal alloys and meta-materials that possess properties not possible in nature will revolutionize the science of materials itself. E.g. rendering an object invisible. This era of new materials and of near perfect computational design and production will be explosive and unleash a big change in how we make things. And this will be defined by high talent and not cheap labour.

Finally, there is the communications revolution where soon most humans on the planet will be connected wirelessly. More than a billion people will be able to communicate, socialize, and even trade with each other in real time. Breaking old barriers of cultural, religious differences, displacing and shifting world economics evenly Networked mass data storage via cloud computing and the collapse in the cost of wireless connectivity will provide cheap connectivity, information and processing power to every one… everywhere. 

As technology will fuel economic growth as well as social and lifestyle progress, what would be the focus areas essential for unleashing the promises of technological change?  

Demographics—All major cities in the world have cosmopolitan demographics and are therefore the melting pot of diverse cultures. Youth bring more than workers and the taxpayers; they bring abundant energy much needed to foster entrepreneurial innovative growth. Enhanced and mentored by its elders and the entrepreneurial eco system. 

Dynamic Culture—Often suited to challenge, the youthful demographics helps adapt to the cultural shift. Culture cannot be changed or copied overnight. Cultural shift is a feature of its people, the younger the population, higher the inertia. A vibrant culture is distinguished by the remarkable abilities of its people possessing powerful features such as open mindedness, risk-taking, hard work, playfulness and open to new ideas, critical for entrepreneurial innovation. Culture therefore inadvertently defines the learning processes, converging into a diverse education system.

India produces a lot of innovative solutions in wireless and mobile technology; however, the mindset of a knowledge worker still sits on the services mindset rather than have the risk taking mindset to create an Intellectual Property (IP). The ability to take risks to become an entrepreneur and create an IP outweighs the cushioned option of being a salaried IT worker writing code. The differentiator is in the mindset.

With the promise of ‘Akash’, the cheapest tablet, mobiles and tablets will see a lot of innovation. Making bandwidth a fundamental right, free innovation will thrive. Metros with a succulent entrepreneurial eco system will thrive, as is already evident by start-ups that are highly innovative. 

Diverse Education system—An education system is characterized by its flexibility and diversity of educational philosophies and course curricula. There is a dizzying range of approaches available to an individual seeking to learn. As newer technological innovations prompt learning, a diverse educational system will continue to bridge the industry-academia mismatch. 

So what should we do to align ourselves to help user this new era of entrepreneurial growth? How should our policies reflect our preparedness to the forthcoming wave of global competition?

While inward migration is a convenient arrangement for wealthy nations, it has severe disadvantages for India. The remittances of migrant workers become the main source of income for the communities from which they come. Large corporations and industries of wealthy nations get the benefit of this labour force, while the workers themselves pay the cost of maintaining it. Rather than reduce migrants to a factor of production, or a commodity to be exported and imported, migration policy must acknowledge migrants as human beings and address their dignity and human rights. The policy therefore should be based on protection of the rights of migrants, rather than regulating their movement in the interest of employers.

In the migrant worker debate, proponents of restricting the migrant people movement usually argue that they are only directed at illegal and undocumented workers or to those who displace employment domestically.  But maintaining this distinction between those with legal and illegal status or of causing job displacement has become a code for preserving inequality, a tiered system that divides people into those with rights and those without. The guest worker schemes of nations, for example, thus set up similar tiers—in effect, another form of inequality and social exclusion creating a greater digital divide. Once established, this growing inequality eventually affects all classes of workers, including the residents. In an economy in which migrant labour plays an important part, the price of stopping migration would be economic crisis. 

For India, the effects of inequality are not unknown, especially in a society which has historically accepted the unequal status offered by virtue of their skin colour and sex. Take for instance, the temporary worker programmes of wealthy nations. With or without the temporary worker programmes, migration to these wealthy nations will continue as a means to escape. 

So, should the migration approach be used to increasing corporate profits by supplying labour to industry at a price it wants to pay? 

Migrants are human beings first, and their desire for community is as strong as the need to labour. Indigenous migrants to the state are increasingly recognized to be a state of migrants, and of a society whose fate is intimately linked with the economy and culture of the country as a whole. This description emphasizes the movement of people in the relationship between one state and the other.

An increasing percentage of migration in the city of Mumbai, for instance, is now made up of indigenous migrants, who share culture and languages spoken long before their culture and people arrived into the city. They overwhelmingly belong to transnational communities, retaining ties to their communities of origin and establishing new communities as they migrate in search of work. They move back and forth through these networks, to the extent the difficult passage across border allows. This is a global phenomenon and not only restricted to any particular geography. The creation of transnational communities exists at different stages of development in the flow of migrants. Migrants in all these places find people who speak the same language, eat the same food, and dance the same dances.

Indigenous migrants have created communities all along—in reality, a single expanding community, composed of many different settlements. Their traditions become a rich source of experience migrants draw on as they seek work, social justice, and to preserve their culture. But for indigenous communities, migration has complicated social costs and benefits. It threatens cultural practices and indigenous languages, which become harder to preserve hundreds of miles from their towns of origin. Migration often seems, especially to the young, a more profitable alternative to education. It exacerbates social and economic divisions, as some families have access to remittances and others don’t. But it has also become an economic necessity, and the families of those who take the migration road often do benefit, although they risk danger and debt to receive its rewards.




Tira T

5 years ago

Is it not suggestive that, since the date this article was uploaded (15th March), there has not been any response or comments? This only shows a whole nation's attitude to the migrant workers. One cannot recall any Leftist party's public stand on this issue ever in any of their election manifestos so far, nor has there been any agitation by the top leaders of the Left on this matter, despite the heart-rending stories about the plight of the migrant workers and their families who were in Delhi for the CWG and the manner they were thrown out just before the Games were inaugurated "just to keep the city clean".

Sahara Life launches traditional life insurance plan for children

The new plan is a regular premium plan for parents aged between 20 years to 50 years, for the benefit of their children who fall within the age group of 0–12 years

Sahara India Life Insurance Co Ltd, the life insurance company of Sahara India Pariwar and the first wholly owned Indian life Insurance company in the country, has launched a traditional Plan, ‘Sahara Vatsalya Jeevan Bima’, which is aimed at meeting the education requirements of the children of the policyholder. The new plan is a regular premium plan for parents aged between 20 years to 50 years, for the benefit of their children who fall within the age group of 0–12 years.

As per the policy, once the child (nominee) attains the age of 19 years, the policyholder shall receive an education benefit in the form of 4 annual installments @ 20%, 25%, 25% and 30% of sum assured payable at the end of each of last 4 policy anniversaries, respectively. The policy will mature when the child attains the age of 22 years and at that time, all vested bonuses shall be paid along with the last installment. In case of unfortunate death of the parent (life assured), the sum assured along with the vested bonus shall be paid immediately to the nominee. The future premiums will no longer be payable by the nominee under the policy. Instead, from the next policy year after death of life assured, each annual installment of 10% of sum assured shall be paid to the appointee of the nominee every year, till the child attains the age of 18 years. Further, an ‘Education Benefit’ in the form of 4 annual installments @ 20%, 25%, 25% and 30% of sum assured will be payable at the end of each of last 4 policy anniversaries, respectively.

Accidental benefit and permanent disability benefit rider is also available under the plan. The rider can be added by paying an additional nominal premium. The premiums paid under the policy are eligible for Income Tax benefits under section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961.


Public Interest Exclusive
Kingfisher: How to put a brave face while time and planes fly away

Kingfisher is curtailing its operations to stop huge losses and also putting up a brave face through press release on its website

Times are certainly bad for the King of Good Times aka Dr Vijay Mallya and his Kingfisher Airlines (KFL). Its flights are getting cancelled, accounts getting frozen due to non-payments, lessors are taking away planes given on rent, IATA agents not booking KFL tickets seamlessly anymore and pilots and employees being deprived their salaries. What more can anyone expect.

All the problems are caused by only one factor, money. The airline neither has any hard cash nor is anyone willing to give it a ‘loan’ or bailing it out. In fact, according to a report by Canadian research firm Veritas, KFL was funding itself at the expense of its employees and the Indian exchequer.

“KFL’s book equity has been wiped out although audited financials pretend otherwise. The airline is burning cash at a rapid rate, we estimate Rs301.10 core ($ 65 million) in the first quarter of 2011-12, is in a business that requires capital perpetually, has no pricing power given six carriers fighting over the major hubs in India, is dependent on the vagaries of the price of oil and the largesse of state-run financial institutions in India, and its parent UB has run out of financial room to accommodate the needs of this capital-starved child," Veritas said in a report.

According to reports from the British media, Dr Mallya has pumped a further £20 million into his Formula One team ahead of the start of the motor racing season in Australia next week. Accounts filed at Companies House for Silverstone-based Force India revealed that Watson, the personal investment vehicle used by Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya, loaned the team nearly £7 million. Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines and beer and spirit businesses pumped in a further £13 million through sponsorship of the team, which finished in sixth place in the constructors’ championship last season, said a report by

And this is when the airline was starving for hard cash to keep running its operations. However, while all the 'bad' things are happening around, the carrier has put up a brave face, at least admitting that something is 'wrong' somewhere.

Here is the latest press release put up by Prakash Mirpuri, vice president for corporate communications, KFL...

Statement From Kingfisher Airlines - Mumbai, March 14, 2012

1.Despite the shortage of crew, Kingfisher Airlines operated 101 flights on 13th March and will operate 101 flights on 14th March.
2.Our prime mission is to maintain schedule integrity by predicting in advance what we can with the sole objective of minimising, if not eliminating guest inconvenience.
3.We try hard 24X7 to inform guests in advance of cancelled or combined flights and to give them the option of travelling on other airlines or to take a full refund.
4.There will, inevitably, be a small number of guests who are inconvenienced partially because we could not access them personally but only via their agents.
5.Kingfisher apologises to all those who were affected.
6.Whilst many of our pilots and engineers have expressed their disappointment, we not only sincerely apologise to them but wish to advise that our chairman will meet the pilot fraternity on Thursday 15th March in Delhi.
7.There is a lot of sensational speculation and assumption about us.
8.We request one and all to appreciate the serious handicaps we face not only because of our frozen accounts but because of the operating environment. We are working hard to resolve the issues that confront us given the current environment.
9.We would like to confirm that we are curtailing our wide body overseas operations that are bleeding heavily. To this end we have already returned one Airbus A 330-200 to the lessor in the UK. Positive and immediate action is being taken on all fronts to cut costs.
10.We are trying to protect the interests of our valuable employees. We share their pain caused by unpaid salaries and we are also trying to protect their jobs apart from paying salaries.
11.Whatever the schedule we operate, we would like to assure our valued customers that your flights will depart as shown and on time.
12.The suspension of our ICH and BSP accounts with IATA resulted from the freeze of our IATA accounts by the tax authorities.
13.We have, obviously suffered as guests are not able to book seamlessly through IATA travel agents as before. This serious handicap has been partially mitigated by encouraging our travel partners to establish booking arrangements on their individual platforms. Nevertheless, this greatly influences our ability to operate certain flights and it is, therefore, incorrect to assume that pilots are solely responsible.
14.We continue to work with the tax authorities to arrive at a solution to de-freeze our accounts as early as possible.
15.We are also working with our bankers to realise the urgent interim working capital as approved in the bankers consortium meeting held on 17th February. This is not dependant on State Bank of India as widely reported.
16.We fully understand that State Bank of India can only consider additional facilities once our account with them is standard and this has been debated and minuted at the last consortium meeting.
17.The government's final verdict on removing the restriction on investment by a foreign airline within the existing FDI limit of 49% is awaited. We can confirm that there is interest from prospectives on this basis.
18.Finally, we wish to assure all guests, employees and all stakeholders that we are doing our very best.
Prakash Mirpuri
Vice President - Corporate Communications
Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.



Krishnaraj Rao

5 years ago

Looks like Vijay Mallya is drinking too much of his own stuff before he goes into Board meetings. His judgment is impaired. Seriously!

Krishnaraj Rao

5 years ago

"Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines and beer and spirit businesses pumped in a further £13 million through sponsorship of the team..." -- WTF?! These guys couldn't pay oil companies' dues and pilot salaries, and they shelled out sponsorship money?! That is criminal!

Nagesh Kini FCA

5 years ago

The Kingfisher Auditor's must be read before going further into its Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss Account.
It very explicitly spells out that Kingfisher net worth has eroded and it ceases to be going concern!
What more do the banks want? When the lead bank SBI and other lending banks declare it a NPA how come other banks choose to classify it 'sub-standard'. Nice way to play around the King of Good Times eh!

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