Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Relief Funds, Gulf Returnees

I wished to participate in a young scholars' programme organised by a prestigious institute in Mumbai. I created a write-up showing my interest to participate in the project. The write-up is published here. I was, however, not selected for the programme.

Why I wish to participate in YSP – June 2009

It has become a norm among governments all over the world to announce relief and stimulus packages when the respective economy fails to withstand the erosion of wealth in the stock markets. Similar packages have been announced by Central and State governments in India too, notwithstanding the fact that ‘downturn’ has been the day-to-day experience of majority of the country’s population for years on end. I do not wish to enter into the polemic ‘How inclusive was India’s economic growth in the last few years’. Instead, the question that haunts me is, are relief packages utilised at a micro level to implement long-term and sustainable livelihood strategies among the affected population? A case in point is the relief package announced by Government of Kerala for Malayalee labourers returning from the Gulf due to recession. The package worth Rs 100-crore has been allocated in the 2009-10 State budget. The relief package has a proclaimed aim of helping new business ventures by the returnees, of covering immediate relief measures, and helping the school admission for the children of these returnees. This is a good example of a typical governmental intervention at the time of crisis, which do not go much beyond the principle of ‘quantitative easing’ of economy.

I would be happy if get an opportunity to discuss and study in detail how funds are utilised in crisis situations such as the one pertaining to the return of migrant workers to the home country. The questions I wish to discuss in the forum are:- Do these funds help the returnees settle in their motherland and acquire new skills needed for the future? Or are these funds meant to simply replenish an income gap caused by the loss of job of the breadwinner in a family? How does a relief package help the returned migrant worker ensure his/her ascent along the development index? The attempt is to find a development-oriented solution to the problem of return of migrants.

April 22, 2009.

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