Home > 2020 > They are going to the country where their country is lost - Economic crisis (...)

Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 22, New Delhi, May 16, 2020

They are going to the country where their country is lost - Economic crisis of migrant workers after returning home: A study of gold makers of Ahmedabad

Sunday 17 May 2020

by Atanu Sengupta and Asish Kumar Pal,


Migrant workers are backbone of the society in developing countries. They have been jobless from the first day of nationwide lockdown for out breaking coronavirus disease pandemic. For starting the third stage of lockdown they have began to come back to own houses by their continuous efforts and assistance of government also. We have emphasised the misery condition of the migrant workers who were engaged in jewellery making in Ahmedabad and Surat cities of Gujarat state for a long year. After reaching to native village they are also in poor economic condition being jobless. As the lockdown is going on still now all the economic activities are stand still, they are not getting any job at this time. They are fighting against both survival of life and Covid -19 pandemic. Despite of government assistance they are unable to maintain their families adequately. This paper aims to understand the socio-economic conditions that ensure the standard of living of gold making ornaments workers who have recently returned home.

Key words: Migrant, workers, lockdown, gold, making, rural , Covid -19


 “ Chollo sethai je desh theke desh geche tar muche

Maa moreche, Bap moreche badhon geche ghuche

Pathe Bahir holo ora Bhorsa Buker Ati

Chera shikhar pabe ki aar purono taar mati?

They are going to the country where their country is lost

Mother died, Father died all ties have ended

They have come on to the road with valour in heart.

Will the uprooted root get its soil back?

(Translation by the author)

In a beautiful poem Madho, Tagore goes on to describe the plight of a migrant worker Madho and his family. It is acknowledged that the migrant labourers work basically in unorganized sectors in the developing countries. Being a underdeveloped India is no exceptional from this. The migrant labourers are the backbone of the society. A pioneer study by Chatterjee (April 12, 2020), regarding the Pandemic exposes India’s Apathy toward migrant workers’ is published in the Atlantic news paper in the form of report. She has reported that migrant labourers are among the most vulnerable parts of the imformal sectors which make up 80% of Indian workforce. The country’s infrastructure is built on the backs of water.

We have seen the misery condition of them after starting the country wide lockdown announced by prime minister to curb the coronavirus disease from the midnight of 24th March, 2020. From the starting day of lockdown the migrant workers through out the country are jobless. Naturally they tried to come back to their own home for a few days at the first and second phases of lockdown. Their economic condition is poor in this situation because they were daily wage earners. They do not have sufficient money to maintain themselves at this time. They had to travel road on foot. We have all seen their plight and suffering. Many fell down in the process including the child of a tender age. Some have committed suicide in their desperation of the inability to reach home. There was huge ruckus between these workers and policemen at Mumbai and Surat.

But here we are touching a different story altogether. We look at the workers who have managed to reach home. After returning house they were not happy and comfortable because most of them are from poor families. They have not sufficient food and without shelter. Their family members are dependent on them. But they can not able to bring money from jewellery owners or companies for suddenly lockdown. In this situation in their own villages they are also jobless. It is the time to discuss the economic conditions of the migrant workers who were engaged in gold making ornaments in Ahmedabad and Surat cities of Gujarat. After coming back to their native villages they are also in misery condition that is concentrated in this paper.

Nature and Scope of Study: 

In India many people living in rural areas often transit between places in inter-state either for a social or economic cause (Shruthi, July, 2014).

As per National Sample Survey 2007-2008, in India most of the households migrate for employment related reasons for better life and livelihood (Initial, et.al, 2014).

According to ILO report (2018) 90% of Indian migrant workers, most of whom are low and semiskilled workers.

There are some reasons for increasing in the migration rate of labourers could be due to several factors viz. increasing unemployment conditions, degradation of natural resources, environment conditions and lack of resources etc. These push factors are in contrast with the pull factors like better unemployment opportunities, wages, good education facilities, urbanisation, better communication, lifestyle and economic factors (Annie Jane, April, 2016).

Migration is a natural process that often may be for socio-economic, demographic, cultural, political and environment factors which are related to migrant people ( Bala, July, 2017) Dr Bala has studied that the factors responsible for migration in rural areas due to less employ opportunities, less income, less wages, lack of basic amenities, landlessness and other social factors.

There is a lot of Study on migrant workers in India that describes to understand the causes for migration. However But in the time of unprecedented lockdown to combat the covod- 19 pandemic there are several studies or survey reports on misery condition of the migrant workers who are spreader in different places all over India, is published in convent daily news papers very recent.

Some of the interesting studies are brought to paper for consideration one by one. BBC News ( April, 2020) published some very much interesting reports among those that the thousands of migrants who gathered at the nearest railway station in Mumbai city., Several hundred migrants were rescued from under a bridge along the Yamuna river in Delhi., Textile workers protested in Surat city, demanding a passage to their homes in other parts of India., A Rickshaw puller who lives under a river bridge in Delhi, says in the absence of work, heis dependent on food handouts for survival., Millions of poor Indians are stranded far away from home, with no jobs or money after extension of national wide lockdown announced by Prime minister.

According to report of World Bank ( April, 2020) the national wide lockdown in India has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants.

According to ‘Jan Sahas’ very recently conducted a survey on the migrant labourers about the ‘impact of lockdown on migrant workers’. He has got a result of dismal picture that 62% of workers do not have any information about emergency warfare measures provided by the government and 37% of the respondents do not know how to access the existing scheme. However, there are several reports that have been published in newspapers. But none has reported concerning economic conditions in this situation after reaching home. (Source: Indian Express.com, April 6, 2020).

There is no means of unacknowledged about their distress situation when they try to come back home to meet their relatives of family by walking thousand kilometres after kilometres for a day to day. This is more pathetic hearing deaths of them for walking for a long period without food and water. It is does not really astonish us for getting news about the accident of 17 migrant workers who have crushed to death by train in Aurangabad, have had walked 45 km in attempt to return home ( Updated May 8, 2020, 8:23 A.M IST , News18.com).

But what awaits them at home. This question needs to be answered properly. This paper focuses on the misery condition of migrant workers of jewellery making who have recently come back to the native villages.

Basis of socio-economic Survey:

We have selected such gold jewellery making workers who have recently come back to their villages after lockdown. They worked in the shops of gold making ornaments in Ahmedabad and Surat. We have taken 100 various gold ornaments making workers who are two villages in our study. We have concentrated to unravel the economic conditions of this type of migrant workers after returning home.

A set of questionnaire was prepared to elicit a wide amount of information about these gold making workers. Various types of information are gathered by rapid survey method at the village health center where they have had checked up by thermal screening. The questionnaire may be sugrouped under several headings about familial information, income, health, food and consciousness regarding Covod- 19 pandemic. We culled information about the assistance by government like food and cash through PDS and money transfer and other schemes. The questions are designed in order to elicit various information regarding the nature of the problems faced by the gold making labourers, the possible solutions, suggestions for better coordination and similar other parameters.

As it is well known, lockdown has a long run negative economic Consequences for the migrant workers who are continuously exposed to this situation. This is a rather broad group including almost all the Citizens of India However, the impact varies and it depends on the direct contact with this economic crisis. The gold makers of Ahmedabad and Surat citirs who have recently come back to their villages are a very venerable group in this regard.

Socio-economic Features:

The analysis is carried out in this paper is descriptive. The socio-economic conditions of the migrants has been explained by analysing various social and economical characteristics. Now we enter into various collected informations one by one. First we have brought social features of our sample gold making workers.

About 40% of our gold workers are between 26-40 years of age while 30% are in the lower age group. However, 23% are in 40-50 years age group and only 7% are above 50. In case of family size, 48% respondents hold 4-8 family members, 46% is in small scale family size while 6% of the sample gold workers are in larger family group. Considering the job experience of them we see only 16% have above 20 years of job experience, 33% have1-10 years of job experience while some others 51% have 11-20 years. Thus our sample largely covers the gold makers who should have their full working capacity at the time of sampling in our study area.

Table: 1 (a) Age of the sample gold makers 

Age No of gold making workers 
15-25 30
26-40 40
40-50 23
Above 50 07

Table: 1 (b) Family size of the gold making labourers 

Average family size No of gold making workers 
1-4 46
4-8 48
Above 8 06

Table: 1 (C) Job experience with gold making ornaments among the workers

Years of job No of gold making workers 
1-10 33
11-20 51
Above 20 16

Now, we come to education. 52% of the gold workers have 5-8 years of schooling. The higher education is rare (only 5%) that indicates maximum education of graduation.

Table: 1 (d) Educational Status of gold workers 

Years of schooling  No of workers 
5-8 52
8-12 43
Above12 05

We have come to know about their housing condition also. We denote houses as “kuccha” if it not built of brick and concrete (mud, thatched roof, tiles, coconut coir, hay etc.) Concrete house with bricks are denoted as “pucca”. They basically live along with family members in kaccha (57%). Recently near about 43% have built pucca under the scheme of ‘Priminister Abas Yojona’ (PMAY).

1 (e) Distribution of housing condition in native village of the gold makers 

Type of Housing condition  No of workers 
Paka 43
Kancha 57

As to the economic background, most of them come from rural non farm (40%) and agricultural families (34%). Actually they are from basically marginal families in rural area. Most of the respondents had no idea about the hazards of staying outside of their native village at the emergency period.

Table: 2 (a) Ancestral family occupation of the gold makers 

Father’s occupation  No of workers 
Agriculture  34
Rural non farm 40
Urban non farm 08
Government service  03
Private  07
Business  08

We look table 2(b) that describes about land holing of the workers in the native village. 56% of the respondents have little or a very small amount of agricultural land. 32% respondents out of them are small land holder families. And only 12% belong to larger land holding family.

2 (b) Distribution of land holing households of gold making migrant labourers 

Marginal (0-4) bigha 56
Small (5-10) bigha  32
Large holders ( >10 bigha) 12

From the income structure in table: 2 (C) the gold workers (40%) earn money from Rs. 200-400 per day, 38% earns daily from Rs. 401- 600. Only 10% of respondents get money above Rs.600. Again someone works under Rs.200 Wage rate per day. It is pointed out that they were all involved in ’No work no pay’ system.

2 (C) No of daily wage workers who makes gold ornaments 

Income per day  No of gold making labourers 
Rs.200-400 40
 Rs. 401-600 38
Above Rs. 600 10
Below Rs.200 12

Without their labour they can nothing to earn that maintain their families because the following table shows that they have acknowledged that they do not have any other source of income.

Table: 2(d) Any other source of income of jewellery workers 

Identified other source  No of jewellery makers 
Yes 22
No 78

The data in the table 2(e) explore a Proportion of consumers and workers in the family of the respondents who are only one earner of the household. Near about 90% of the households have only one income earning person and only 10% have more than one earner.

Table: 2 (e) Proportion of consumption and workers among jewellery workers 

No of family of gold makers  No of consumers in family  No of workers 
 58(1-4 members) 4 1
32 (more than 4 members)  6 1
10  10 More than 1

After reaching home they are literally penniless. There is no job prospect in the native village. The little that would have been possible is frustrated by lockout. The joy of reaching home is now bulldozed by the need to maintain cost of living.

In order to test their awareness about the government schemes which are provided to the rural people, a series of questions are constructed. The intensity of awareness is measured by the proportion of right answers. For example 80% of the gold making workers can identify Job card under MGNREGS that is well known to 100 day’s work. Only 55% of the respondents identities about the concept of BPL card and 73% of them have heard about ‘ Jandhon Yojona Bank Account’.

Table: 3 (a) Awareness of government schemes for the rural people

Government schemes  Yes (awareness) No (awareness)
Job card under MGNREGS 79 21
BPL card 55 45
Jandhon yojona Bank Account  73 27

The details information of beneficiaries of various card holding among the respondents of gold making workers is collected (table: 2). This shows 21 % of respondents holds job card. As the vast rest percentage is in out of state for a long time they do not show interest to hold job card for work. 55% of them has BPL card card and other 45% of them do not occupy such type of card which will help to get food in subsidised rate by government. Only 73% such type of workers have opened bank account under the scheme of Jandhon Yojona’ by central government. Therefore others are not eligible to enjoy direct cash benefit’ by the Central government. The gold jewellery making workers who are not occupied such types of holding card are not benefiting in this period. The workers who are not enjoying these facilities are in absolute condition of property. Maximum respondents answered they can survive their family at least despite of the assistance of government through ‘food for all’ scheme.

Table: 3 (b) Government facilities through different card holding among the workers of gold making ornaments 

Types of facility  No of Beneficiary  No of Non beneficiary 
Job card under MGNREGS 21 79
BPL card 65 35
Jandhon yojona Bank Account  76 24

The sample gold making workers complain that they are unable to work in agricultural, rural non farm and any other sectors because of they were engaged in gold making ornaments for a long day. Maximum respondents are not getting also other job. They fear how they will spend the coming days with their families. According to Panchayat pradhan of the selected village, lockdown has forced some of these people to work under MGNREGA programme by using the job card of a registered person on a commission basis.

Table: 3 (C) Their ability to work in another sectors

Sector Ablility to work  Inability to work 
Agriculture  21 79
Rural non farm sector  33 67
Any other sector  27 73

However, when asked about their willingness to come back to gold making working further when lockdown ends, most of the respondents are eager to stay in their native villages. This lack of mobility arises because they are worried about their past experience in the lockdown period. This indicates the past days of lockdown period were a terrific nightmare to these migrant workers. At any cost, they will not return to this inferno again.

Table 4: Their willingness to return to gold making work after ending lockdown 

Intentions  No of workers of gold making 
Willingness  31
Unwillingness  55
Not responding  14


 This is the case of our sampled gold making workers who covers some portion of the total migrant labourers in our country. Lockdown situation brings them in economic crisis after returning to their native villages. They are caught between Scylla and Charybdis. In home they have little to depend on. Outside they have faced a nightmare. May be this is an immediate reaction of the pangs of a sudden lockout. May be this fear will be overflown by the pains of hunger-the need to earn a bread for their own and their near and dear one. Perhaps most of them will again migrate. But we cannot forget their pains and sufferings. As the migrant workers are backbone of the economy unless their standard of living increases, welfare of them cannot be ushered in the economy.


Annie Jane, C, ‘A Study on the international migrant labour’, “Indian Journal of Applied Research” Volume 6, issue 4, April, 2016

Bala, Anju, ‘Migration in India: Causes and consequences’, “International Journal of Advanced Education Research” Vol 2, Issue 4, July 2017, Page No 54

Chatterjee, Patralekha, ‘Pandemic exposes India’s Apathy toward migrant workers’, www.atlantic.com

International Labour Organisation Report, 2018

Nitiayog et.al, ‘Migration for urban India ; Need for Public Health Action -NCBI, “ Indian Journal of Community Medicine” Nov, 25, 2013

Shruthi, Ashoke, ‘ A study on issues of inter-state migrant labourers in India’. “International Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research”, Volume 5, issues 7, July — 2014

www.bbc.news.com (April 22, 2020)

www.indianexpress.com  ( April 6, 2020)

 HYPERLINK "http://www.news"www.news18.com (May 8, 2020)

Atanu Sengupta, Professor, Economics Department, Burden University, West Bengal email:sengupta_atanu[at]yahoo.com

Asish Kumar Pal, Assistant Professor, Economics Department, Tarakeswar Degree College, West Bengal, e-mail: Asian.kr.pal[at]gmail.com

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