Bangalore, July 5: Life for migrants is not easy in a different country, especially when they are neither aware of the language nor the culture. Migrants, especially from the country side and the rural areas, are at a loss when they shift to places like New Delhi and Mumbai-cities that are fast and most of all, very costly. Mostly working as daily-wage labourers, these migrants are usually from Nepal or Bangladesh.
Rough migration estimates
Estimates suggest that India has no less than 25 lakh Nepalese migrants. "Similarly, migration from Bangladesh is huge. There are no reliable estimates, but a World Bank report recognises the Bangladesh-India corridors as one of the world's most voluminous," points out Nabesh Bohidar, Team Leader (India) of EMPHASIS.
The Nepali population in India tends to live in clusters. One such pocket is in southwest Delhi, called Kapashera and Rajiv Gandhi Camp in Naraina, where Nepali families stay together in a chawl or a flat.
Problems faced by the migrants
While the problem of language is prevalent among these communities, residing in big cities, finding a proper job and most importantly moulding oneself according to the needs of the city is very important.
One such case is that of 22 year old Maya, who landed up in Delhi (where her husband works as a factory worker) from her land-locked village in the Terai plains, just after marriage. EMPHASIS groomed her with the language and made her aware of the most prevalent problem of HIV.
Well-equipped with information about the city, she now volunteers for EMPHASIS, teaching fellow migrants what she was taught. "My husband was apprehensive about me teaching on 'AIDS and HIV'. He had opposed to the idea vehemently, but now he understands the meaning of these sessions," says Maya.
All because of the patient persuasion from EMPHASIS top leadership. Notes Mamta Behera, partnership coordinator of the project: "When it comes to anti-HIV activities, we face stiff resistance even from house-owners who rent out accommodation to Nepalis."
Jaspal Yadav, who owns the building that has rented out rooms to 15-odd Nepali families including Maya's, says his earlier misgivings about EMPHASIS were put to rest, courtesy the positive societal change he has seen in the community during the course of the project, now completing its fourth year.
Kapashera resident Milan Thapa is another case in point. A native of Nepal's Kapilavastu, this 26 year old is among the lead functionaries of ‘Unity of Nepal', a youth group that works for the welfare of the migrant community from the Himalayan republic. "We facilitate routine blood donations."
Legal advisor talking on women-related laws in Domestic worker meeting.
Activities in DIC (drop-in centre).
MTR consultant discussing among women in Rajiv Gandhi Camp.
Domestic worker meeting at Narayana.
A NMP Peer Educator educating children in his leisure time (Rajiv Gandhi camp,Naraina).
Outreach workers actively participating in Group work.
A view of Rajiv Gandhi Camp (Naraina).
Ganesh Kumar Vaswane, an educator in EMPHASIS.
Mamta Behera (on right) is the partnership coordinator, EMPHASIS in Delhi.
What is EMPHASIS and how it helps
EMPHASIS, which stands for Enhancing Mobile Population's Access to HIV/AIDS, Services, Information and Support, is South Asia's only project for migrants which works at source, transit and destination points.
"These people need a lot of awareness regarding the city they are residing and the dangers that they can face. We educate them about everything they need to know, so that they survive properly," said one of the organization workers.
Behera informs that EMPHASIS has so far covered 3 lakh individuals and mapped 14,000 Nepali migrants in Delhi, where the project has 43 peer educators in Delhi, besides nine outreach workers and five counsellors. Also, it has four learning sites (in Shalimar Garden, Sarhaul, Naraina and Kapashera) other than two drop-in centres, or DICs (in Jhilmil and Ganeshpuri).
As for DICs, Kuldip Singh, another project coordinator with EMPHASIS, explains they facilitate access to information, support and services in areas of safe mobility and HIV to Nepali migrants and Bangla-speaking populations.
"Learning sites," he adds, "have been conceptualised as a space for managing, preserving and sharing the knowledge generated from the project. The prime objective of the learning site is to test models and document the on-going process, achievements and challenges. EMPHASIS has reached out many people at source, transit and destination sites."
The project initially focused on HIV intervention, but soon realised the need for a comprehensive programmatic approach to migration.
"Today, we touch upon a wide range of developmental issues such as access to education for migrants' children, safe remittances, domestic violence and harassment at workplace, besides equal wages for labour migrants, rescue and repatriation," Behra reveals.
The organization, with the help of the resident Nepalis, also organizes street plays throwing light on the current social and medical concerns. "We participate in these projects ourselves and ensure that the message reaches out to thousands like us," says Vinay Shreshtha, a migrant who came to DElhi as a child in search of work.
The project benefits migrants, and migration benefits both the economies of India and Nepal, he notes.
Funds and Volunteers
While most of the work is voluntary here, funds flow in from UK too. As an international humanitarian organisation EMPHASIS- CARE engages with over 100 partners and stakeholders who also contribute to strengthen the efforts with support from UK-based Big Lottery Fund.
Giving further support are the likes of Maya, her husband Navin and other Nepali migrants in the vicinity. Working during the day, they help the organization workers in the evenings, by turn.
"Little drops of water make the mighty ocean," they say. The little efforts by EMPHASIS and many others like it is sure to bring a big change in the near future.