Socio Economic Impact of Covid on South Asian Migrants

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New Delhi :- Pravasi Legal Cell (PLC), keeping in mind the drastic effect of the pandemic Covid-19 on Migrants of South Asian region, organised a webinar on “Socio-economic Impact of Covid on South Asian Migrants” on 05th July, 2020 (Sunday) from 7:30pm (IST).

The webinar was conducted through the online platform Zoom. The theme address of the webinar was delivered by Ms. Roshee Lamichhane, Asst. Professor, School of Management, Kathmandu University.

At the start of the webinar, Mr. Melwyn Williams, Spokesperson, Pravasi Legal Cell, apprised the participants about the theme and the details of the speakers. Thereafter, the Adv. Jose Abraham, Global President of Pravasi Legal Cell, delivered the introductory remarks, which was followed by the theme address by Ms. Roshee Lamichhane.

At the outset of her talk, Ms. Lamichhane, defined the four common characteristics of South Asian economies viz. 1) Pervasive poverty 2) Agrarian based 3) Vulnerable employment (prone to unemployment); and 4) Large informal sector. The talk delved on the situation of South Asian countries comprising of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It was pointed out that the economies of all the above named countries are highly remittance dependent. On the basis of Statistics, it was pointed out that India is the largest recipient of foreign remittance among all the counties of South Asia region.

The presentation based talk then focussed on the 3 categories of migrant workers in South Asia. The first being the rural to urban migrants, the second being migrants primarily going to GCC countries and some South East Asian Countries and thirdly, regional migrants crossing the borders of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. It was rightly pointed out that the South Asian nations are among the largest recipients of workers’ remittance from abroad. India was the top remittance recipient in the year 2019. The impact of foreign remittance in reducing poverty was stressed by the speaker as well. The South Asian migrants were going to GCC countries and South East Asian counties as they could save more working in South Asian countries.

A very important point stressed in the talk was regarding increase in reverse migration in South Asian countries due to COVID which will in effect cause pressure on the dwindling job market and fragile health sector.

Lamichhane through graphs predicted that the expected growth of remittances and projected change in remittance will be negative for all the countries in the South Asian region.

The adverse impact of Covid-19 on the South Asian region was also pointed out by the speaker. The hardships faced by those involved in the informal sector were also highlighted in the talk.

The talk also highlighted the need to create new employment opportunities in rural areas. The need to utilise the skills of those returning from abroad was also stressed upon. Ms. Lamichhane before concluding her talk suggested that governments of all the south Asian Countries must adopt a balanced and equitable development model and priority must be given to enhance connectivity and improve IT, Agriculture, health care and education sector.

Prof. Ujjwal K. Chowdhury (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Adamas University, Kolkata) who presented his observations on the talk, highlighted the contributions of migrants in the development of almost all the prominent nations of the world. He highlighted the miseries that migrants had to face since the announcement of sudden lockdown in India. One of the most important remarks made by him was that, the present migrant labour crisis is the biggest tragedy since the partition of India. He also sharply criticised the decision to bring amendments in the existing labour laws. He proposed that as the crisis will only get worse due to immediate return of lakhs of more expatriates, it was imperative that the government infuse money to boost the economy. He stated that measures like moratorium on loan interest payment is not the real solution to tackle this existing financial crisis associated with Covid.

It is also pertinent to mention that both the speakers took questions from the participants as well. In the interactive session, the speakers re-iterated the need for regional co-operation to tackle the common problems faced by the people of the region.

The meeting concluded after the vote of thanks proposed by Adv. Robin Raju, Core Team member of PLC.

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