Support Indian business to kick-start the economy: Prof. Rama Shanker Dubey
| Gitanjali Tiwary, Freelance Journalist, Noida, UP - 04 Oct 2020

2nd International Webinar

“Positioning Migration Studies to Understand the Short and Long-Term Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic”

By Gitanjali Tiwari

The Government of India has taken various steps to mitigate the difficulties emerged with the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister himself has assured the safety & security and livelihood of many Indians in general and particular to migrants living in India and abroad, through the missions like Vande Bharat Mission (MEA, GoI) & Aatma Nirbhar Bharat or Self-reliant India. PM Narendra Modi has also announced the rollout of a 20lakh crore INR (265 billion USD) economic reform package. Now this is the time to support Indian business to kick-start the economy, said Prof. Rama Shanker Dubey the Vice-Chancellor of the Central University of Gujarat. He was giving his Presidential Address in an International Webinar on the history of migration in India and Gujarat.

The 2nd International Webinar on “Positioning Migration Studies to Understand the Short and Long-Term Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic” was organized by the Centre for Diaspora Studies, the Central University of Gujarat in collaboration with five eminent institutions of India namely the Department of History (BHU), CSRD-JNU, IIPS-Mumbai, and IGU-India. It was held on 10th and 11th September 2020. The Convener & Coordinator of the International webinar was Dr. Naresh Kumar, Assistant Professor, CDS, CUG. This garnered much interest and the Centre received around 4000 registered participants online from across India & different parts of the world. Participants were from across India and more than 45 countries especially the USA, Canada, Europe, U.K. Singapore, South Korea, Iran, Iraq, Singapore, Bangladesh, and so on. The webinar was streaming live on Microsoft Team and CUG Facebook live which has more than 10000 online viewers and which shows the it’s grand success.

The webinar was structured with an Inaugural session, two Plenary Sessions, three Open Discussion sessions, and the Special Valedictory session.

The Inaugural sessions began with university song and welcoming dignitaries’ guests, speakers, registered participants, and the partner organizing universities/institutions online by Dr. Naresh Kumar, Assistant Professor & Convenor CDS/CUG.

A formal welcome address was given by the representative of all the organizing institutions. Dr. Atanu Mohapatra, Chairperson, CDS-CUG, gave a special welcome address. He has recounted the many government policies and program initiated for the benefit of the people that were especially affected in and outside India.

Prof. Keshav Mishra, HoD of Department of History, Banaras Hindu University, Uttar Pradesh in his address emphasized on the importance of history and its involvement in migration studies and particularly during the pandemics like COVID-19.

Prof. and Chairperson of CSRD-JNU, New Delhi drew the attention towards a lack of proper data and its analysis when it comes to the study of disasters and pandemics in India and also the different ways in which COVID-19 has affected migrants, be it economic, livelihood, food security, and other physical and mental difficulties. 

Introducing the concept of the webinar titled “Positioning Migration Studies to Understand the Short and Long-Term Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Dr. Naresh Kumar, Convenor & Coordinator of the webinar, and Assistant Professor, CDS, CUG underlined the significance of the theme saying, as the world is facing an unprecedented crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic today and how these crises leave their short and long term impact on various spheres of society particularly internal, international migrants or Diaspora. “India has the largest Diaspora (31.2 Million) or international migrants (17.5 million or 6.4 percent) who are living abroad followed by Mexico and China. On the other side, India has significant numbers of internal migrants, large numbers of circular / seasonal / temporary migrants which constituted near about 10 million populations. It has evident from the various scholarly or academics works that migrants (Internal/International/Diaspora) have been significantly contributed to the destinations & origins places of India. In this above background, this International Webinar with the help of different academic panellists drawn from various reputed national & international migration/diaspora institutes, organizations, and universities shared their academic expertise, existing information, causes, associated challenges, prospects and explored the possible future strategies, plans, policy recommendations to provide safe, orderly & regular migration. 

Addressing the webinar as the Chief Guest Prof. R.B. Singh, International Geographical Union (IGU) Secretary-General and Treasurer, recounted the various pandemics that India had previously dealt with and how difficult it is for India to deal with COVID-19 as it was much more widespread and far-reaching. He says, Covid-19 adversely affected and challenged India’s economy and medical infrastructure. He also looks at the opportunities that can be created from this pandemic in the fields of manufacturing and reforms in labor and migration and the importance of focusing on these avenues for the government.

The Guest of Honor, Dr. Dnyaneshwar M. Muley, focused on the difficulties that led to the migrant exodus and the need for policymaking and government infrastructures to meet sustainable development goals. To make good policies it is important to get proper data and migrant studies become very important in this scenario where internal migrants moved in a large number. 

The Special Guest of the webinar H.E. Arun Kumar Sahu, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago, touched upon the various difficulties that COVID-19 put in front of nations all over the world and challenged the existing strides made.

The Special Guest of the Webinar Prof. James, Director and Senior Professor, IIPS-Mumbai stated that generally during the outbreak of pandemics, attention is given to mortality studies or health issues. One of the policies which we need to suggest to Govt. of India that it is important to start counting migrants which is quite possible as there are a lot of technological improvement.

The message from Prof. Alok Gupta, Professor, and I/C Registrar, CUG who appreciated the timely required topic for discussion and congratulated Dr. Naresh, Convenor & Coordinator, CDS, and other organizing institutes.  

The keynote address in the inaugural session of the webinar was given by Prof. R.B. Bhagat, Head of Dept. of Migration and Urban Studies, IIPS-Mumbai. He highlighted the academic issues and challenges that have been raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, he focused on the issues of governance and policymaking about the pandemic. He also said that migrants connect between two places (origin & destination) and play a crucial role in developing both the places. He stressed on the various programs that have been initiated by the government of India (ex: PURA & MGNERGA) to provide the basic amenities and create employment opportunities for many people in urban and rural areas.

The Presidential Address was given by the Vice-Chancellor of CUG, Prof. Rama Shanker Dubey who stressed on the history of migration in India and Gujarat. He brought attention to the issues of family reunification, students stranded abroad, and other problems due to the economic slackening because of the pandemic. He also stressed upon the Government of India’s various steps to mitigate the difficulties emerged with the COVID-19 pandemic and to assure the safety & security and livelihood of many Indians in general and particular to migrants living in India and abroad, through the missions like Vande Bharat Mission (MEA, GoI) & Aatma Nirbhar Bharat or Self-reliant India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the rollout of a 20lakh crore INR (265 billion USD) economic reform package, he also asked people to support Indian business to kick-start the economy.


The first plenary session on "Implication of COVID-19 on Migration, Diaspora, Remittances, and Economy" The first eminent speaker was Prof. Binod Khadria, Zakir from JNU, who spoke on “Understanding Impact of COVID-19 on South Asian Economics through the Lens of Migration” provided the overall views on the South Asian economy and impact of COVID-19. He has looked at their health systems including government health expenditure, hospital beds, nurses and midwives, physicians.

The second eminent speaker was Prof. Sonia Plaza (Senior Economist, World Bank) spoke on the "COVID 19 Crisis Through A Migration Lens." She also focused on the COVID-19 crisis by looking at the migration. She focused on the flow of remittances reduced and how they are drastically affected by COVID-19 and the migrant stock. The third eminent speaker was Prof. Anuradha Banerjee from JNU spoke on 'The Exodus in Times of Pandemic: Mobility, Migration, and Livelihood of Informal Migrant Workers during COVID 19 Crisis in India." She stressed on internal migrants and their sufferings due to the pandemic and the heightened mobility as a result of the sudden lockdown.

The First Open Discussion session on “Migration, Diaspora, and Pandemics: Historical and Current Scenario”, was chaired by Prof. Raymond (Hong Kong Baptist University) and Prof. Ghanshyam (BHU). The first speaker was Rajeshwari Chandrasekar, Chief UNICEF, Maharashtra) India. She drew attention to the condition of children of migrants and the Pravasi versus Desi migrants. The second speaker was Prof. Binda Paranjape (BHU). She stressed the importance of studying multiple voices and narratives to know the full story of the pandemic. The third speaker was Prof. K.C. Das, IIPS-Mumbai. He focused on the lack of proper data in India and especially in the case of COVID-19 and Migration and Diaspora.

The second plenary discussion was on “Migration and Diaspora Engagement During COVID-19: Best Practices”. The first speaker was Prof. M.K. Gautam, European University of West and East, Netherlands. He has pointed out the paradigmatic shift that is needed and will be needed to study Diaspora and migration, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The second speaker was Prof. S. Irudaya Rajan (CDS, Kerala). He drew attention to migrant engagement by the Indian government and how it failed its migrants. He also highlighted the importance of return migrant rehabilitation. The third speaker was Prof. Anand Singh (University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa). He described the condition of migrants and Diaspora in South Africa. He focused on the Indian Diaspora in South Africa during the Pandemic.

The fourth speaker of the session was H.E. Arun Kumar Sahu (High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago) who spoke about the actions taken by him and the government of India to repatriate Indian migrants back to India and also the issues of inter and intra-governmental organizations.

The second day of the webinar began with the Open Discussion sessions. on "Migration, Urbanisation, and Marginalization: An Impact During and Post COVID-19 Pandemic". The prominent speakers were Sajaudeen Chapparban CDS/CUG,  Prof. Anisur Rehman, Director-HRDC/JMI and Prof. Gerise Herndon (Nebraska Wesleyan University, USA). They highlighted the existing inequalities and xenophobia in the US and its treatment of refugees and migrants that were exposed during the pandemic.

The third 0pen discussion session was on "Migration Policies, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Managing the Future Mobility". The speakers were Prof. Archana K. Roy (IIPS), Dr.Paiman Ahmed & Prof. Bhaswati Das (JNU). Her presentation focused on the movement of migration and labour and the challenges faced in the lockdown.

The Special Validictory session began with the welcoming and introduction of dignitaries/invited speakers by Dr. Naresh Kumar who conveyed gratitude to collaborating partner institutes/universities. The Vice-Chancellor of CUG, Prof. Rama Shankar Dubey chaired this session and introduced Dr. Marie McAuliffe, Head, Migration Research Division, Chief Editor of World Migration Report, IOM, UN Migration, Geneva, Switzerland.

Prof. Binod Khadria a well-known eminent scholar had moderated the session. Dr. Marie McAuliffe given her valedictory address on COVID-19 and Global Transformations of Migration and Mobility: Initial Reflections and Priority Areas of Research and Analysis”. She said that pandemic is a systematic geopolitical event that has transformed migration and mobility systems globally. Initial research and analysis show that the most vulnerable in society are most affected by COVID-19 – this includes migrants (including refugees) in different settings. She broadly categorized COVID-19 impacts on Migrants into 3 broad categories: 1) Immediate Impacts; by the end of May, the majority of countries globally continued to have some form of COVID-19-related travel restrictions such as partial international border restrictions, then total restrictions, and internal restrictions (now slightly easing). 2) Medium-term Impacts: International remittances are projected to fall by 20% in 2020. COVID-19 has been devastating for millions of migrant workers, many of whom are unable to work due to lockdowns, movement restrictions, or job losses.3) Long Term Impacts: migration as an important security issue, “mobility protectionism” vs mobility-led recovery Impacts will be highly uneven, with countries heavily reliant on remittances most affected. Long-term impacts of COVID-19 include – reduced access to education in developing countries, urbanization, and city-to-city migration will be intensified making cities the center for global migration and mobility systems, etc. She also stressed the Top 3 COVID-19 migration research priorities for 2-5 years. These are: 1) International and internal Remittances: 2) Mobility restrictions: 3) Protection of migrants.

At the end, special remarks were given by Prof. Ghan Shyam, Prof. K.C.Das, and Dr. Atanu Mahopatra of the collaborating organisations.


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