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 Climate Change

Rural Development
Published on: April 22, 2020, 11:01 p.m.
India's migrants are stuck between a rock and hard place
  • Migrants gather at a protest outside a station in suburban Mumbai during the lockdown

By Business India Editorial

India has banned domestic and international travel, and factories, schools, and offices in an unprecedented lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

But the measures, which amount to one of the harshest lockdowns in the world, have led to unintended reverse migration from large cities like Delhi and Mumbai to the rural heartland where health infrastructure remains abysmally poor.

The migration took place because for many of the estimated 140 million migrant workers, the pandemic is a threat to not just their health but also their economic survival.

In the cities the poor live in slums along the sidelines, in groups of more than 10 to a dingy room and share a single toilet between a thousand people. A government-mandated social distancing is almost impossible in such places and meaningless to such people. 

Their key reason to shift to the cities was to earn nearly twice of what they would have back home. But with desertification creeping into greener pastures across India there is little hope for many of them back in their villages.

According to government data, 96.4 million hectares of land – or about 30 per cent of the country’s total area – is degraded or undergoing rapid degradation. Desertification and land degradation threaten agriculture productivity, which is significant in a country that is home to 18 per cent of the world’s population and bears a quarter of the global burden of hunger.

At the COP-14 conference in Delhi last year, India had announced a commitment to restore nearly 50 lakh hectares of degraded land in the next 10 years and set up a Centre of Excellence at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, for providing technical assistance to meet the challenges.

A pilot project has also been announced to restore degraded forest landscapes in five states - Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland, and Karnataka - over the next 42 months.


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