For many centuries, migration has been a global social phenomenon. Today, more people live in a country or state other than the one in which they were born. Migration is the voluntary or forced movement of people from one place to another due to various reasons, such as the economy, occupation, sustenance, war, riots, etc. Since the earliest times, people have been on the move for various reasons to survive. India has shown an increasing trend in migration for a long period. Kerala is one of the states in India that has witnessed a large-scale migration, and a large number of Keralites reside outside Kerala for their livelihood. The lives of non-resident Malayalees are greatly affected because of the pandemic situation called Covid-19. It has forced people to return to their home country. The uncertainty caused by Covid-19 across the world is very drastic and uncontrollable. It is multidimensional. This research was an attempt to develop knowledge about the experiences undergone by non-resident Malayalees on their return journey to Kerala during the Covid-19 period. The researcher tried to analyse major questions like the difficulties undergone by different members of the family during the journey, the reasons for return migration, and their expectations about the future. The researcher employed a qualitative case study design to collect in-depth subjective data and develop a deeper understanding of their experiences and expectations.
This thesis is divided into seven chapters, starting with an introduction and a review of the literature. In this section, the researcher identifies research gaps in the existing literature and sheds light on those overlooked areas. Subsequent chapters include the methodology used in the study, case presentations, analysis of the data and findings, and conclusions.
Through this study, the researcher has come to understand that the return journey was not easy for the respondents and involved very risky and unexpected dimensions during the pandemic situation. The reasons that compelled them to return were the sudden loss of jobs and the fear and insecurity they faced at their current place of residence. The experiences of the families differed based on their social conditions and the mode of travel.
The future living conditions for the returnees are uncertain, posing different challenges for their family’s livelihood. Since the study is inductive, it is difficult to generalize the findings, and such an attempt has not been made.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|Sl. No||CONTENTS||Page No|
Statement of the Problem
Significance of the Study
|2||Review of Literature||11-24|
|5||Analysis and Interpretation||46-60|
|6||Findings and Conclusion||61-69|
Since ancient times, people have been on the move. Some individuals migrate in search of work, economic opportunities, or for educational purposes. Others relocate to escape conflicts, persecution, terrorism, or human rights violations. Yet another group moves in response to the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters, or other environmental factors. In short, for many centuries, migration has been a social-global phenomenon. Today, a larger number of individuals reside in a country or state other than their birthplace. Migration is defined as “a form of geographical mobility or spatial mobility between one geographical unit and another, typically involving a change in residence from the place of origin or departure to the destination or arrival point” (United Nations, 2013). In simple terms, migration refers to the voluntary or forced movement of people from one place to another due to various reasons such as the economy, occupation, sustenance, war, riots, etc.
The International Organization for Migration defines a migrant as “any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from their habitual place of residence, regardless of:
(1) the person’s legal status;
(2) whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary;
(3) the causes for the movement; or
(4) the length of stay.”
Factors for Migration
Many individuals migrate out of choice, while many others migrate out of necessity. The migratory process may occur in response to changing economic, social, political, cultural, or environmental factors. The reasons for migration vary, and broadly, it is conceptualized into two categories: Push Factors and Pull Factors. Generally, Push Factors are associated with the area of origin, while Pull Factors are associated with the area of destination. To be specific, push factors are those that force individuals to voluntarily move from their place of residence due to various reasons. The major push factors are as follows:
- Extreme physical conditions, such as hills and mountains.
- Mechanization leads to the replacement of human labour with machine labour
- Pressure on land
- Natural disasters and calamities
- Starvation and hunger deaths due to famine
- Forced eviction due to man-made calamities, such as war and disputes
- Lack of services, such as schools and hospitals
- Economic and physical insecurity.
Pull factors are the factors in the destination country that attract individuals or groups to leave their homes. These factors are also known as place utility, which refers to the desirability of a place that attracts people. The major pull factors are as follows:
- Better economic opportunities
- Improved and standardized quality of life
- Centres that excel in providing higher standards of opportunities
- More reliable food sources and other basic needs
- Attractive environments, such as mountains, seaside, and warm climates
- Social reasons, like principles of religious tolerance.
Types of Migration
All forms of human population movements are considered under ‘migration’ or more appropriately ‘population mobility’. Migration is a shift in the place of residence for some length of time, excluding short visits and tours. It includes different types of voluntary and involuntary movements. Involuntary movements occur under abnormal situations that force individuals to leave their place for survival. This type of migration includes crises such as war, famine, riots, and natural disasters like floods, droughts, and earthquakes. Voluntary movements can happen in normal situations as part of people’s livelihood. Generally, migration is classified into two: Internal and International Migration.
Internal Migration refers to migration within the nation-state (Azrael & Zaionchkovskaya, 2001). Generally, internal migration refers to the movement of individuals or populations within a social system. According to the United Nations definition, internal migration is a permanent change in residence from one geographical unit to another within a particular country. It involves both in-migration and out-migration. In-migration refers to migration within an area only, while out-migration means migration out of the area. For example, migration from Bihar to Bengal is in-migration for Bengal and out-migration for Bihar. The common designations of internal migration include:
As per the 2011 census, there were 21 crore rural-rural migrants, which formed 54% of classifiable internal migration. Rural-Urban and Urban-Urban movements accounted for around 8 crore migrants each, and there were around 3 crore urban-rural migrants (7% of classifiable internal migration). As of 2011, 70% of intra-state migration was due to reasons like marriage, with variations between male and female migrants. While 83% of females moved for marriage and family, the corresponding figure for males was 39%. Migration in terms of employment was higher among interstate migrants (Kawoosa & Jha, 2019).
Another type of migration is International Migration. This refers to migration where a person moves across a nation’s borders for futuristic and economic prosperity. It results in a change in the legal status of the individual concerned. It is generally defined as a change of a person’s usual place of residence from one country to another. The United Nations recommended adding a time element of at least one year to this definition to differentiate international migrants from international visitors. International migration mainly deals with two main processes: Immigration and Emigration. International migration becomes immigration or emigration, depending on how the place of destination or place of origin is considered.
- Immigration deals with people who are pulled towards a country. Such people are called immigrants. When people from India move to America, they are called immigrants in the USA.
- Emigration deals with people who are leaving a country. Such people are called Emigrants.
Today, most international migrants can be classified as refugees, labour migrants, or institutional migrants (Kritz, 2007).
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugees are people who are “fleeing armed conflict or persecution” and “for whom denial of asylum has potentially deadly consequences”. Refugees leave their home countries because it is dangerous for them to stay.
Labour migrants include documented and undocumented, semi-skilled and unskilled workers and may be temporary contract workers or blue-collar labourers (World Migration Report, 2003). They are mainly driven by economic inequalities between countries as workers seek to improve their incomes and conditions that are better than their homelands.
Institutional migrants include highly skilled migrants who are hired or transferred by corporations, governments, and other entities to another country for work purposes. Institutional migrations include several migrant flows that have increased during the globalization era.
Migration as a social phenomenon
Migration is a social phenomenon and a continuous process. The phenomenon of migration has been indispensable to human histories, cultures, and civilizations. For example, the connection between religion and migration is a hotly debated issue throughout the history of major religions such as Christianity (e.g., the spread of Catholicism by Portuguese and Spanish during the 11th and 12th centuries), Islam (e.g., the first and second migrations during Prophet Mohamed’s time), and Judaism (e.g., the migration of Jews from Eastern to Western Europe and overseas, and to the United States of America during the 19th century). Religion has played an important role in both triggering massive population movements and influencing the lives and conditions of migrants in their displacement. Today, the intersection between religion and migration, or what is called ‘transnational religion’, is at the heart of contemporary migration debates.
During the 15th-17th century, the age of discovery, many Europeans, with the Portuguese and Spanish leading the way, undertook maritime travels and explored the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. This transoceanic migration led to the discovery of new lands, the expansion of trade relations, and the development of the economies of both the countries of origin and destination. Commercial and strategic factors influenced migration in that period as many European countries were competing to colonize strategic regions and territories. At the same time, the slave trade was introduced to tackle labour shortages at various times throughout history and was subsequently abolished in the mid-19th century. A second wave of labour came from Europe, especially England, Spain, and Portugal, to what was then called “the new world” (i.e., the USA, Canada, Australia, and southern Africa). A great wave of migration subsequently took place worldwide, especially in Central Europe after World War 1 when populations resettled after the creation of many new states. All these situations clearly state that migration is a social and global phenomenon.
Currently, a large number of individuals migrate in search of a better place, changing regions, countries, or even continents. This witnesses events that transcend people all around the world and consider migration as a generator of economic, social, cultural, and political profound changes. These major changes require the involvement of political actors, namely the governments, in creating a favourable and reliable framework so that society and decision-makers understand that immigrants represent an opportunity for emerging economies and not a phenomenon that should be criticized.
India has shown an increasing trend in migration for a long period. It comprises both internal and international migration. The total number of internal migrants in India, as per the 2011 census, is 45.36 crore, which is 37% of the country’s population. This includes inter-state migrants as well as migrants within each state. The reasons for migration vary, and it is mainly characterized in terms of employment, education, marriage, moving with family, and so on.
Kerala is one of the states in India that has witnessed large-scale migration. Until 1971, most Keralites were migrating within India, mostly to emerging cities such as Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. The main reason for such migration was the demand for skilled, educated persons, which Kerala could contribute to due to its high literacy rate. Kerala’s migration to the Middle East began in the 1970s, as rising oil prices and the economic boom in the Gulf nations created the need for overseas labour. Now, every fourth Indian in the Gulf is a Keralite. Most of the migrants to the Gulf were often semi-skilled workers without long-term contracts or visas who made money and came back, though middle-class professionals and business people have also been part of the diaspora. Non-resident Keralites play an important role in the development of the state. To a great extent, it has reduced poverty among migrant families. The study shows that nearly 1.5 million Keralites now live outside India. Many of them have come back, and they live mostly on the savings, work experience, and skills brought with them from their migrated region. More than a million families depend on internal migrants’ earnings for subsistence, children’s education, and other economic requirements. According to the Inward Remittance surveys conducted by the Reserve Bank of India, Kerala accounts for about 19 per cent of the inward remittances coming to India. India is the largest remittance-receiving country in the world, and Kerala is indeed the largest remittance-receiving state in India (Centre for Development Studies: 2018). These remittances have proved very helpful in smoothing the consumption pattern and have contributed in numerous ways to the growth of the economy. At the same time, the Kerala population has migrated to different states of India and contributed to the workforce of the country.
Migration always affects the population growth of the state. Migration from Kerala always includes more males than females. It has reduced the working-age population in the state and consequently increased the proportion of children and the elderly. Migration results in the postponement of marriage and prolonged post-marital separation of couples during the critical phase of the life cycle when the couples are more fertile, and fertility behaviour is bound to be affected negatively (Gulathi: 1993, Zacharia et al 2002 and 2003). The flow of a large number of remittances has resulted in unprecedented economic changes and also led to the generation of more savings for the poor and industrially backward economy of Kerala.
Covid-19 and return migration of Keralites
At present, the entire world is undergoing a pandemic situation called Coronavirus Disease, and its outbreak has posed a serious challenge to the entire world, including India. At the global level, as of May 10, 2021, around 1.57 billion confirmed cases have been reported, leading to the death of 3.2 million people. This has affected more than 210 countries and disrupted economies. It has caused real damage in terms of loss of lives and economic loss, and it is expected to be much more severe than what is being observed currently. Scientists cannot foresee the disease’s outcome, the control measures, the duration of the outbreak, or the magnitude of the deaths it might cause.
COVID-19 has led to many challenges in various areas of society, including health, transportation, economy, finance, employment and unemployment, price levels, emigration and remittances, and the overall economic situation. India, in particular, has faced the brunt of the problem to varying degrees. As of now, India has reported 12,303,131 confirmed cases, with approximately 11 lakh people having recovered. The death toll due to COVID-19 in India stands at 163,428.
This pandemic has severely affected the lives of migrant workers, leading to job losses. The entire world was shattered and shocked at the extent of this disaster. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), India’s unemployment rate was 24 per cent for the week ending May 17, 2020. The rural unemployment rate was 23%, and the urban unemployment rate was 27%. Reports from Kerala indicate that COVID-19 was responsible for the unprecedented economic recession in the state.
The absence of a remedy in the form of a vaccine or drug has caused great uneasiness worldwide, especially because the extent of suffering is expected to reach surprisingly high levels. The exact damage will depend on the severity, intensity, and duration of the pandemic. Some countries have been appreciated for handling the situation better than others. New Zealand is one such example where it has become free from COVID-19 cases. Different countries adopt various methods to cope with the pandemic, including efficient medical services, enforcement of medical advice, ensuring social distancing, and raising awareness about personal health.
The Indian government responded to the situation by implementing a nationwide lockdown, starting with a one-day Janata curfew and subsequently implementing a complete lockdown from March 24. Different states in the country responded differently based on the degree of virus spread in their respective regions.
To control the spread of the disease, a nationwide lockdown was imposed, severely affecting people’s lives. The disruptions caused during the national lockdown in India were very damaging to state and federal governments. The lockdown led to an exodus of migrant workers who struggled to reach their home states. The government took necessary steps to help migrants return to their home states. A large influx of people returned to Kerala from the Middle East and other countries. The Gulf countries have already begun to experience the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, with oil prices hitting an all-time low. Most sectors are likely to incur heavy job losses due to changing domestic policies.
Return migration of Keralites is not a new issue, with different situations leading to such migration in the past, such as the Iraq-Kuwait invasion in the 1990s, the enforcement of the Nitaqat Law in Saudi Arabia, and recessions in Dubai. The current COVID-19 pandemic is another such situation. The pandemic was sudden and unexpected, and for the first time in the history of migration, Gulf Malayalees have been forced to return with nothing. The number of returning emigrants estimated by the Kerala Migration Survey 2018 is 12.95 lakh, about 60 per cent of the total number of emigrants. This number has increased further due to the crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have lost their jobs and were forced to return, while some returned home and continued their work. A large number of non-resident Malayalees have undergone a tremendous experience during this time. Those who came from foreign countries have faced different issues related to travel, while non-resident Keralites within different parts of India have had different experiences during their return journey to their home state.
This study aims to understand and explore the experiences undergone by individuals during COVID-19, focusing on both the experiences of non-resident Keralites from foreign countries and those from different parts of India returning to their home state.
Statement of the Problem
Migration is a global phenomenon that has existed for some time. It involves the voluntary or forced movement of people from one place to another due to various reasons, such as the economy, occupation, sustenance, war, riots, etc. Many individuals migrate out of choice, while many others do so out of necessity.
At present, the entire world is undergoing a pandemic situation called Coronavirus Disease, and its outbreak has posed a serious challenge to the entire world, including India. Covid-19 has affected the lives of migrant workers, leading to job losses. To control the spread of the disease, the government of India has responded by implementing measures such as the one-day Janata curfew and subsequent complete lockdown starting from March 24, 2020.
The lockdown has resulted in an exodus of migrant workers who are struggling to reach their home states. The government has taken necessary steps to help the migrants return to their home states. A large influx of people from Kerala has returned from the Middle East and other countries, as many lost their jobs and were forced to come back. Some have returned home and resumed their work. Nonresident Malayalees are among them. It is important to understand the difficulties faced by these non-resident Malayalees during their journey back to their home states. Their experiences are subjective and vary from individual to individual and their respective families.
The experiences and difficulties faced by non-resident Malayalees also vary. Those who came from foreign countries have had different experiences regarding travel, such as the availability of flights and ticket charges. Due to limited access to public transport like trains for interstate travel, many were forced to return by road from different parts of India. The long journey by road has presented them with numerous problems. The lockdown halted the public transportation system, making it impossible for them to cross state borders on their way to their native places. Interstate travel by road has created problems, especially for women and children, in terms of health, food, toilet facilities, and travel expenditure. We have even witnessed accidents involving Keralites during their return journey home.
On the other hand, those who travelled by public transport during this time have had different experiences. Once they reached their home states, they had to stay in quarantine. The return journey has provided varied experiences for non-resident Keralites.
This study aims to understand and explore the experiences undergone by non-resident Malayalees during the Covid-19 pandemic. This global health crisis has created many difficulties for humanity as a whole. In this context, this study helps to understand the issues, experiences, and problems faced by a marginalized section of society—migrants. The researcher primarily focuses on non-resident Malayalees who returned from other states and countries. Additionally, the study will also consider the plans of the respondents.
Significance of the study
The current global pandemic outbreak of Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has posed a very serious challenge to the entire world, including India. In the course of the pandemic and lockdown, a large section of nonresident Keralites has been forced to come back to their home states. The study is important to understand the tremendous experiences undergone by the families in their return journey during this pandemic situation. However, there are no research studies available regarding the experiences and challenges faced by nonresident Malayalees in their return journey to their home states for any further references. Only studies that focused on the issues of migrants in general exist. It is necessary to address a social problem that requires action.
The study aims to explore the problems faced by the victims and understand their plans. Thus, this study is exploratory and would serve as a foundation for many other studies related to this topic. It would also provide valuable insights for future researchers and academicians interested in this area, enabling them to understand the challenges and experiences of a section of people in our society. Lastly, academically, this study is relevant in the field of sociology, as it helps to comprehend a phase of modern society and the situations it is undergoing.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
A literature review surveys books, scholarly articles, and any other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory. By doing so, it provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works about the research problem being investigated. Literature reviews are designed to provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a specific topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits within a larger field of study (Fink, 2014).
Rajan conducted a study on Kerala migration, examining its trends and possibilities. He led the Kerala Migration Survey 2018 and is a member of the Kerala Government Expert Committee on Covid-19. In a future projection of post-Covid-19, Kerala faces the prospect of large-scale return migration from the Gulf. Once the lockdown is lifted, Kerala will face a new challenge with the expected return of a large section of Keralites from the Middle East. This sheds light on the importance of out-migration in Kerala’s economy and raises questions about its future.
Migration, both internal and international, has been the single most dynamic factor in the development of Kerala since its formation in 1956. Until 1971, most Keralites were migrating within India, mainly to emerging cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore. This was due to the demand for skilled and educated individuals, which Kerala contributed to, thanks to its high literacy rate. However, the trend began to change when Gulf economies opened their platforms to foreign workforces in 1970, following a spike in oil prices. This led to a transition in Kerala migration from internal to international. Initially, there was only one international airport in Kerala, and continued migration led to the development of four international airports. The people who migrated improved the lifestyle of their families.
At the same time, Kerala migrants have also experienced widespread returns due to external shocks on at least three occasions: the Gulf War, global economic crises, and Saudi Arabia’s Nitaqat policy. The top destination for migration is the Gulf region, with 89.2 per cent of the total emigrants. The UAE has remained the favourite destination for Keralites from the beginning, with approximately 1.89 million emigrants living in the Gulf countries. In his study, Rajan makes predictions regarding the future of emigration from and return emigration to the Gulf.
As of now, Kerala has 1 lakh return emigrants who could not go back due to the closure of airports in the Gulf earlier and in India later. The Gulf countries are already beginning to see the effects of the Covid-19 crisis, with oil prices sinking to an all-time low. Most sectors will incur heavy job losses amid changing domestic policies. Another major factor is the presence of 10 per cent of undocumented workers among Kerala migrants. Recently, Kuwait announced amnesty allowing undocumented workers to leave the country without fines. Overall, this poses a major challenge for the government to consider when deliberating over the future of migration from Kerala. As stated in the report of the Expert Committee on the strategy for easing lockdown restrictions in Kerala, “A comprehensive Kerala Migration Survey should be undertaken immediately after the normalcy is restored for more effective policy formulation for this category in the State” (Rajan, 2020).
Babu wrote an article that tries to provide insights into the issues faced by the state regarding the return of Kerala migrants. The weakening of oil prices, coupled with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the oil-dependent economies in the Persian Gulf countries, has led to uncertainties. Out of 1.8 million workers from Kerala in West Asia, at least 200,000 are desperate to come back home after losing their jobs. The article also highlights the difficulties faced by the authorities in planning to repatriate the migrant workers in batches and accommodating them in quarantine facilities for a mandatory 14 days. The government worked overtime to create accommodations for these Gulf returnees (Babu, 2020).
‘Caritas India’ conducted a small study on the distressed situations experienced by migrants during Covid-19. The study reveals the travel difficulties faced by migrant workers. The lockdown halted the public transportation system, making it impossible for migrants to cross state borders on their way to their native places. Hundreds of thousands of migrants had to leave their workplaces, with some of them walking thousands of kilometres while carrying all their belongings as headloads. However, the return journey was not without risks for migrant workers. Tragic accidents on their way back home resulted in the deaths of hundreds of them. Even a Kerala family met with an accident on their way back to their home state. Many who walked long distances to their homes died due to scorching heat and acute dehydration. Additionally, accidents on roads and railway lines claimed several more lives. The key findings of the study are as follows:
- 23% of migrants spent more than Rs. 5000 on their return journey.
- 16% of migrant workers travelled for 6-10 days to reach home.
- 52% of migrant workers travelled more than 1000 kilometres to return home.
- 47% of workers didn’t have enough to eat during the return journey.
- 28% of migrant workers were denied entry into villages upon their return (Moonjely, 2020).
The journal ‘Reverse Migration Due to Long Lockdown in India – Is it Sustainable?’ focuses on the problems faced by migrants who returned to their home state due to the Covid-19 pandemic (Joarder, 2020). It highlights various aspects of migration, from its origin to the current pandemic situation. The first part of the article focuses on the reasons for rural-to-urban migration. People migrate to urban areas due to both push and pull factors. The major push factor discussed here is agriculture. In India, agriculture heavily depends on monsoons, leading to fluctuating food grain production. The continuous subdivision of agricultural land into smaller plots, driven by population growth and the breakdown of the joint family system, forces small farmers to sell portions of their land to repay debts, further exacerbating the land division. The conditions of most agricultural labourers in India are unsatisfactory, and surplus labour or disguised unemployment is a prevalent issue. Although the contribution of agriculture to GDP has considerably declined over the years, there hasn’t been a significant decrease in agricultural employment. According to the NSSO survey, 49% of the workforce was still employed in agriculture in 2011-12. The shift of the workforce from agriculture to other sectors aligns with economic progress.
A major reason for rural-to-urban migration is the wage gap, with low wages in rural areas compared to higher wages in non-farm jobs. While the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) has had a positive impact on boosting rural income and incentives, providing further stimulus to the program could significantly help reduce migration away from agriculture. The next part of the article focuses on the conditions of migrant workers, particularly during the Covid-19 period. According to Pradhan (2013), over 50% of the increase in urban population was attributed to rural-urban migration and the reclassification of rural settlements into urban areas. The living conditions of migrants are dire, forcing them to live in unhygienic conditions. Census data shows that the majority of migrants have education levels below the metric/secondary level, leading them to be engaged in low-paying hazardous jobs. The majority of them work in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
At the same time, their living conditions are miserable. Migration is expected to improve the socioeconomic status of households and benefit the region they migrate to, but migrant policies in many parts of the country are unfriendly. This results in extremely poor conditions for the migrants. Although the migrants contribute to the economic growth of the state they migrate to, they do not have access to healthcare and social security.
During this pandemic situation, the conditions of migrants were not in good shape. The Government of India adopted different methods to control the spread of the virus, and the initial stage was the introduction of a national lockdown. The migrants living in slums were forced to live in congested areas, where social distancing was a question mark. The government implemented certain measures to control the pandemic, but it was not possible for all sections of society. This situation presents two sides of the same coin.
Dharavi, one of the biggest slums in Asia with a population density of 277,136/km2, reported about 1028 cases with 40 deaths as of May 15, 2020. This indicates that a lockdown cannot be the only remedy for controlling the spread of the virus in a country like India, which has a huge population density. The number of COVID-19 cases is high in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Kolkata. These cities also have the highest number of migrants, particularly from rural areas within the state.
The last part of the article deals with reverse migration, which occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The experiences faced by the migrants during this lockdown period have forced them to return to their native villages, and they are currently unwilling to go back to these urban cities for work. However, the question remains whether it will be possible for these workers to make a living in their villages and not return to their previous places of work. This is highly questionable, and employment generation in rural and adjacent semi-urban areas is expected to take time.
The majority of the migrants who returned are likely to belong to a group with low levels of education and insignificant ownership of assets. However, these migrants possess specific skill sets that they acquired during their stay in urban cities. Aside from construction work, they are observed to work as electricians, plumbers, drivers, and in the hospitality sector. Formal education is not a requirement for the non-farm sector, but it requires different skill sets. These skill sets can be seen as an opportunity for the development of rural areas.
The author concludes by stating that it will take time and that government policies are necessary for the future well-being of the migrants (Joarder & Choudhury, 2020).
Vadakepat focuses on the issue of the exodus of non-resident Malayalees from the UAE back to their native land. The United Arab Emirates witnessed an exodus of long-term non-resident Indians, especially Malayalees, due to the unforeseen impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The pandemic created fear of the virus, job losses, and financial insecurity, resulting in the return migration of non-resident Keralites to their home state.
According to the Kerala Migration Survey, 90% of Kerala’s diaspora is in the Gulf, with 39% residing in the UAE. As nearly a tenth of Kerala’s 34.6 million population lives outside India, the journal explains the causes, benefits, and higher-level values associated with Malayalee migration to the UAE and their current mass reverse migration from the UAE. In the present state of desperation, the reverse migration of UAE Malayalees will profoundly impact India’s economic and demographic structure (Vadakepat, 2020).
According to the 2019 United Nations report, India is one of the leading countries of origin for international migrants, with a diaspora strength of 17.5 million. Since the mid-1990s, India has consistently ranked as the top recipient of worker remittances (World Bank 2020). NRI remittances are a significant source of development revenue for the nation (Connell and Brown 1995), especially for the state of Kerala (The Economic Times, 2020).
In Kerala, the main reasons for the influx of semi-skilled workers are unemployment after graduation, influence from relatives, and aspirations to acquire administrative positions (Zachariah, Prakash, and Rajan 2002). The major factors motivating unskilled labour migration to the Gulf region can be identified as the lack of a degree or diploma and its consequences in the home country, such as low wages, increasing unemployment, resulting poverty, burdens of dowry systems, heavy marriage expenses, and expensive housing loans (The Economic Times, 2020).
Rajan focuses on the importance of migration surveys and other secondary sources that have helped formulate policies for the welfare of migrants. The article primarily emphasizes the role of the Kerala Migration Survey (KMS), which has provided data on the stock of emigrants, returning emigrants, migration costs, the use of remittances, and migration corridors since 1998. It also highlights how the Government of Kerala effectively utilized this data to manage the spread of the pandemic and its subsequent socioeconomic impact on individuals, communities, and society. The data was also used to organize policies and programs and prepare for the eventual return and integration of migrants. The Kerala Migration Survey has been replicated in many states of India and should be implemented nationwide as the India Migration Survey and globally, considering the challenges posed by new emerging trends and patterns of migration in the post-pandemic world. Migration has become the focal point of economic, social, and political debates in many countries around the world over a long period (Rajan, 2020).
Understanding migration comprehensively has necessitated the need for more comprehensive migration data, leading to the advent of exclusive migration surveys worldwide. Numerous large-scale surveys have been conducted worldwide, either country-specific or multi-sited over time. Kerala proved to be the perfect staging ground for India’s first large-scale migration survey, given its long history with international migration. The Kerala Migration Survey, first conducted in 1998, was the first large-scale household survey in India exclusively focused on migration. Initially covering all 14 districts in Kerala and over 10,000 households, the survey provided reliable estimates of the population of Keralites residing outside India, which was 1.36 million at the time. The study shed light on various topics, such as the number of people living abroad, their major destinations, remittance amounts sent back home, the utilization of those remittances, and the changes in social and family structures resulting from migration, particularly among children, women, and the elderly (Rajan, 2013). The Kerala Migration Survey has been regarded as the foundation for many programs and initiatives by the Government of Kerala, enabling the state to gain a clear understanding of its residents’ migration patterns. Traditionally, Kerala has taken the lead in initiating Diaspora outreach programs, including the establishment of the Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs (NORKA). NORKA is a department of the Kerala government that addresses the grievances of non-resident Keralites and provides information on the number of its residents living abroad and their locations. These migration surveys have led to a more detailed understanding of the migration process and how it affects people’s everyday lives in these regions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented another advantage, as it has prompted the timely collection of migration data by witnessing the daily exodus of migrants returning to their home states.
In the final part of the article, the author concludes by focusing on the biggest challenge: the rehabilitation of migrants who have returned to their home states due to the pandemic. While the trend of return migration was already increasing due to changes in the labour market in Gulf economies, the COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified this trend, leading to an increasing rate of migrant returns day by day.
Purayil provides an overview of the growing trend of Gulf migration among Keralites and its changing scenario. He also explains Gulf migration by relating it to different types of occupations, mainly in terms of skilled and unskilled work. Over the years, Kerala has seen significant changes in the overall numbers, educational levels, and job statuses of its Gulf migrants. At one point, nearly 50 per cent of migrants from India to the Gulf regions were Malayalees, with the majority being unskilled, manual labourers. However, the number has drastically decreased over the years (Srivasta 2017; Prakash 1998). Currently, states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan send more migrants to West Asia than to Kerala (Duttagupta, 2019).
The Centre for Development Studies (CDS) has conducted a series of migration surveys since 1998, which reveal a significant improvement in the educational levels of Kerala emigrants and the nature of their jobs. Currently, 37.8 per cent of emigrants from Kerala hold at least a higher secondary education certificate as their primary qualification, and nearly 30 per cent are degree holders (Rajan and Zachariah 2018). While comparable data from other major migrant-sending states are rarely available, the overall trends suggest that Kerala sends more skilled migrants to the Gulf regions than any other state in India. According to data from the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, the number of unskilled workers migrating to the Gulf countries from Kerala has decreased by over 90 per cent, from 163,737 in 2008 to 14,496 in 2018 (Duttagupta 2019; eMigrate GOI). Therefore, a large section of Kerala migrants now works in skilled and professional sectors, while the unskilled sector is dominated by emigrants from northern India and neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh (The Asian Foundation 2013; Rajan and Saxena 2019).
In the next part of the article, the author points out that migrants, including Keralites, have experienced various situations over different periods, which have forced them to return to their home state. This has become a culture of Gulf migration. Over the years, Malayali emigrants have endured many challenges, including periodic fluctuations in oil prices (such as the 1980s oil glut and the significant drop in oil prices after 2014), wars, and domestic turmoil (such as the Iraq-Kuwait war, Arab Spring, Saudi-Yemen conflict, and the Qatar blockade), global economic downturns (such as the financial crisis of 2007–2008), and economic nationalization policies like Nitaqat, Emiratisation, and Tanfeedh, which have led to job losses for many individuals. Beyond the labour market’s demand and supply dynamics, the Malayali emigrant community maintains social connections that ensure their economic interests, such as jobs and businesses, are generally protected. They maintain social connections within the regions and among other migrants to safeguard their interests. One resident states, “Keralites know the ins and outs of the Gulf. After spending many years here, we understand the pulse of this region. Even if we lose our jobs, it would not be that difficult to find decent work here. Someone will offer help. That’s how it works. Gulf Malayalis have a strong sense of solidarity.”
The Keralites have successfully built and maintained a strong network base through multiple forms of interactions and reciprocal engagements between migrants and return migrants. The recent pandemic situation, Covid-19, has led to the return migration of Keralites back to their home state. This return migration varies among people working in different categories of job sectors. People working in the professional sector with high incomes are not as affected compared to those working in the informal sector. However, there are cases where the former have also been affected by this pandemic situation. Rajan argues that around 500,000 emigrants have registered with the NORKA-ROOTS portal to come back at the onset of Covid-19, but it should be seen as a panic reaction to the pandemic. Based on his yearly estimate of ‘Gulf-return’ migrants to Kerala, Rajan claims that only up to 300,000 would be returning. Among them, one-third would have come back even in normal circumstances. Additionally, the total number would also include many who have visited the Gulf States on a visit visa to find jobs. Since many Gulf States have announced amnesty to undocumented migrants, the returning migrants would also consist of visa defaulters and illegal migrants. Professor Rajan bases his predictions on the migration trends he has been observing and documenting as part of the periodic Kerala Migration Surveys for more than two decades. The pandemic and uncertainties can undoubtedly challenge the status quo, leading to a mass exodus of Malayali emigrants and the subsequent downfall of Kerala’s ‘Gulf dream’.
Srivasta, in his recent article, focuses on breaking the stereotype that has existed over time. Generally, it is assumed that people from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh immigrate to Gulf countries in larger numbers. Recent statistics break this stereotype. In the last two years, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, and Rajasthan have been the top six states sending people to the Gulf. In this period, emigration from India increased by 24%.
NORKA and other agencies have reported a significant number of emigrants returning to Kerala. As of May 3, 2020, the total number of international students registered, including refugees, their dependents, short-term tourists, and students, was 413,000. This number also includes a cumulative number of emigrants who have lost jobs, 41,236 who have visited on visas, and 27,100 whose visas have expired or been revoked. Keralite immigrants have had to go back to Kerala due to the number of Keralite deaths due to Covid-19 (186 ending June 6, 2020), shortage of medical facilities, lack of hospital beds to admit Covid-19 patients, failure of private healthcare facilities to provide expensive treatment, lack of room and quarantine facilities in labour camps, etc. The drop in crude oil prices to a historically low level and the economic shutdown triggered by the lockdown in the Gulf countries have contributed to significant job losses. However, conditions are expected to change once the lockdown is lifted. During the Covid-19 crisis in the Gulf, it is expected that two to three lakh migrant workers will lose employment and return to Kerala.
A report published by the Migration Policy Institute highlights the general view of return migration and the difficulties undergone by migrants during the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to Covid-19 and the closure of many destination countries’ economies and borders, an unprecedented number of migrants returned to their home countries in just a few months. This sudden, large-scale return migration, along with the rapid increase in the number of stranded migrants abroad, constituted major disruptions to international migration. Three major trends were noted in return migration due to the Covid-19 crisis:
- Large-Scale Migrants: From the beginning of the pandemic to October 2020, India assisted more than 600,000 migrants in coming home. Between March and July, more than 100,000 Cambodian migrants returned from Thailand. In April, thousands of Zimbabweans crossed the border from South Africa, and in Latin America, more than 110,000 Venezuelans had returned from Colombia as of October. Comparable trends could be observed in high-income countries as well. In Europe, for example, the pandemic and border closures drove tens of thousands of migrants to return to Eastern Europe. The sudden return of migrants to their home states created difficulties for the government to accommodate and arrange required medical facilities for them.
- Stranded Migrants: Alongside the large-scale returns, an even greater number of migrants have been unable to go home, despite deteriorating conditions abroad. In mid-May 2020, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that more than 200,000 Indian migrants were stranded in the United Arab Emirates alone, along with more than 60,000 Pakistani workers. In July, IOM estimated the number of stranded migrants worldwide at 2.75 million. This magnitude has created a range of new challenges for international cooperation among border authorities worldwide. Migrants who don’t have the necessary documents are largely affected by this crisis. They are unable to come forward for assistance due to the fear of getting defamed. The situation has proved particularly challenging for migrants who did not have legal status before the crisis. Some countries announced amnesties for unauthorized immigrant workers, waived overstay fines and paid for return tickets.
- Forced Returns: The third major disruption brought by the global health crisis was the suspension of forced returns from several countries, with travel restrictions interrupting air travel and origin countries pleading for a moratorium on deportations. Not all states agreed to suspend forced returns in the first place, despite many calls urging them to do so for public health reasons, including a formal statement from the UN Migration Network. Among high-income countries, only a few, including the United States, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia, carried out deportations during this period. Several low- and middle-income countries also continued to forcibly return unauthorized migrants, generating diplomatic tensions as well as aggravating health risks for migrants and border communities.
The latter part of the report deals with how states find it difficult to accommodate returning migrants in their countries. Returning migrants have also encountered more difficulties than usual in accessing health services, given the strain on healthcare systems in many countries. Few places were as prepared as the Indian state of Kerala, which, with a comparatively decentralized and robust healthcare system, prepared quarantine facilities for returning migrants and around 250,000 hospital beds. In history, this is the first time that people globally migrate to their home countries in the same period.
Choolayil & Putran conducted a recent study that offers a cross-sectional exploration of the COVID-19 containment strategy in Kerala. The continuous return of migrants to Kerala has increased the number of COVID-19 cases, leading the Kerala government to implement measures to control the spread of the disease. People were instructed to undergo quarantine for a specific period, and similar confinement strategies were adopted by the government. The transmission pattern of this pandemic highlights the interlinked nature of global and local factors, primarily through various forms of migration and travel, which serve as major risk factors. However, other elements have also had a critical negative impact.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, Indian migrant labourers working in the Middle East often lacked medical care and even necessities. Facing job losses, pay cuts, risky crowded accommodations, and poor treatment facilities during the pandemic (Amnesty International, 2020), many migrant labourers became desperate to return home. Consequently, there was a large-scale return migration to India, with Kerala receiving the highest number of repatriated citizens. Kerala, with a population density of 859/sq. km (more than twice the national average), and the highest number of emigrants in India (Rajan, 2014), saw its local healthcare systems overwhelmed by the sudden influx of citizens from overseas. This forced the state to relax its containment and isolation strategies, leading to an increase in undiagnosed or late-discovered cases. The state gradually slipped into the community-level transmission stage, posing a significant risk for the government. Initially, the reported cases were all expatriates, but clusters of infected persons expanded to include people who came into contact with these expatriates, eventually leading to community transmission. This situation highlights how the global and local spheres are inextricably intertwined beyond the economy, emphasizing the need for robust ethical benchmarks in humanitarian and medical emergencies. Better treatment, not only in the host nations but also within some parts of India itself, could have prevented panic among migrant labourers, resulting in lower returnee rates. This, in turn, could have prevented the overwhelming of local pandemic control measures in Kerala.
Kerala’s approach can be considered much more effective when compared to other Indian states. As reported by the New York Times, the number of positive cases per 100,000 people in Kerala was as low as 297 on September 11, 2020, ranking Kerala 20th in India in terms of cases per million. Despite conducting many more tests per million people than the national average (The Wire, 2020), the relatively low infection numbers in Kerala reflect the effectiveness of the state’s model, even in an escalated situation. If there had not been such large numbers of returning expatriates, the situation would have been much better. This observation confirms that the effectiveness of transmission control in Kerala is linked to parallel efforts of infection control in the Middle East and Europe, which were less effective than local processes in Kerala. These connections further demonstrate the global impacts on local developments, undermining the earlier achievements of infection control in Kerala. These linkages involve not only migration but also economic factors (Choolayil & Putran, 2021).
Based on the literature above, we gain a clear understanding of migration, its types, factors leading to migration, and global statistics. Migration is an ongoing social and global phenomenon, and Kerala is one of the states in India experiencing a growing trend in migration, both internal and international. During the pandemic and lockdown, a large number of nonresident Keralites were forced to return to their home states. However, there are no research studies available regarding the experiences and challenges faced by nonresident Malayalees in their return journey to their home states. Existing studies mainly focus on the issues faced by migrants in general. This research gap motivates the researcher to focus on the experiences and difficulties undergone by nonresident Keralites during their return journey to Kerala, including their expectations for the future. Thereby it will be focusing on different aspects including the expectations about the future of the respondents
According to Alan Bryman (2012), a research method is simply a technique for collecting data. It can involve a specific instrument, such as a self-completion questionnaire or a structured interview schedule, or participant observation whereby the researcher listens to and observes others.
Research design encompasses three possible methodologies: quantitative, mixed methods, and qualitative. The quantitative methodology typically follows a deductive approach and aims to test theories using factual information. On the other hand, qualitative methodology is more likely to generate theories rather than test existing ones (Greener, 2008). Creswell (2003) mentioned that qualitative researchers often rely on methods such as structured interviews, semi-structured interviews, participant observation, non-participant observation, field notes, or reflexive journals.
For this study, the researcher is employing a qualitative research methodology. The experiences of non-resident Malayalees on their return journey to Kerala during the Covid-19 period are highly subjective, varying from one person to another. Each individual’s perception of their situation is unique. Therefore, a qualitative study is preferred to understand and capture their experiences and the difficulties they encountered.
Title: Return migration of Nonresident Malayalees to Kerala: A study during the Covid-19 period.
General Research Question: What are the experiences of non-resident Malayalees during their return journey to Kerala during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Specific Research Questions:
- What difficulties did different family members face during their travel to the home state?
- What were the major reasons that led them to return to their home state?
- What procedures and instructions were given to them after reaching their home state?
- What are their plans for a living?
Research design, as described by Alan Bryman (2012), provides a framework for data collection and analysis. The choice of research design reflects decisions about the priorities within the research process.
For this study, a case study design is utilized. Case study design involves the in-depth analysis of an individual case to study social phenomena. The case could be a person, a group, a process, an episode, a community, a society, or any other unit of social life. This design allows for the intensive analysis of specific details often overlooked by other methods. The case study research is concerned with the complexity and particular nature of the case under investigation.
This study requires an in-depth analysis of the cases to better understand and capture the rich and subjective essence of each individual’s experience. The researcher aims to understand the experiences of non-resident Malayalees on their return journey to Kerala during the Covid-19 period. Each individual’s experiences and difficulties are unique, influenced by multiple factors and reasons for returning to their home state. The researcher aims to develop knowledge about these factors.
Case selection process:
The return migration of non-resident Malayalees during the Covid-19 outbreak was a significant issue in Kerala society. The researcher identified the cases through convenience sampling, involving two known families who helped identify additional cases.
Tool for Data Collection:
The researcher used an interview guide for data collection. The research progressed during the interviews, allowing for the collection of detailed information from each case. On average, the researcher spent around half an hour with each case to collect the data.
Data collection during the Covid-19 period posed a major challenge for respondents and was a limitation of the study. The researcher collected data through telephonic interviews, recording the interviews using the phone’s voice recorder. In some cases, the researcher also interviewed family members, providing a comprehensive understanding of the family and the difficulties they faced. The interviews yielded valuable subjective and personal data from the cases.
Primary data was collected using an interview guide. The researcher inquired about areas relevant to the research questions and collected rich and subjective data from the participants. The interviews were recorded using the voice recorder of the phone.
Secondary data was collected from books, journals, websites, and newspaper articles.
Name: Family Y
The respondent ‘Y’ aged 40 years has been residing in Qatar along with his family for last 10 years. The family comprise of wife aged 36 years and a daughter of age 11. The respondent is a native from Thachampara of Palakkad district and wife hails from Ernakulam. The respondent worked as an assistant purchaser for Safari group functioning at Qatar. The respondent was an assistant purchaser cum mediator who purchases goods for the company. The respondent joined in this company at the age of 30, soon after his studies. The respondent is a MBA graduate. Wife is not working and daughter is studying in 6th STD at MES Indian School, Qatar.
The respondent said “everything was going smoothly, until the outbreak of Covid-19. My main job is to meet the companies directly and purchase the goods at low cost for my company. Safari group is a MNC, which has hypermarket, and electronic shops throughout Qatar. We were staying in a rented apartment. I was fully satisfied with the job and everything was fine”. On the outbreak of Covid-19, Qatar had not declared a complete lockdown like other countries. If anyone was tested positive, they will be isolated in a big tent which is considered as a ward. Educational institutions were closed down. The whole Qatar economy was badly affected during the pandemic situation called Covid-19. Even though complete lockdown was not imposed, but people were anxious about to go out. Despite the time of uncertainties, mainly two industries were not much affected; that is Hypermarkets and hotels. The common factor between these two institutions was delivery of items at the door step. As people were anxious to go out, but on the other hand they got the provisions at the door step. Although over the course of time, Qatar had to face difficulties in terms of shortage of food items. The respondent narrated a clear picture of Qatar during the pandemic situation. Later restrictions were imposed in terms of travel. Travel to the companies was the main task of the respondent. But this situation restricted such travel. The other companies didn’t allow the purchaser to meet them due to the fear of this situation. The respondent’s company started to face economic uncertainties. In such scenario, the company started to terminate its employees. The respondent Y was one among them. The company firstly asked the family to go back to their home state. It was a decision taken by the company. The respondent got the termination on March last week. The termination of the job created difficulty for the family.
Then they decided to leave the place, which includes lots of formalities like getting TC from the school, vacating the apartment and so on. Finally the respondent decided to move away from there. At the initial time of Covid-19, globally whole flight services got cancelled. The respondent and his family got stuck and had to stay there for another two months.
On the course of time, they decided to pack their things with the hope that flight services will be resumed soon and with a mindset of not coming back. It was not a usual situation of leaving just like going for a leave. The packing the whole things was a big task for the family, because such a situation was not anticipated. The respondent says, “As our life was so smooth, we didn’t expect such a situation and before this situation we brought many new household items. But when this pandemic occurred unexpectedly, it was a real shock and packing whole items was a hectic task. There were no workers to help us and moreover, due to the fear of Covid, we didn’t encourage outsiders to help us. As we have a small child, it was not safe to allow outsiders to get into our home. So wife and myself packed everything and it took almost one month for the same”. On the month of April, the family was fully engaged in terms of packing their luggage and also getting TC from their daughter’s school.
On May 7th, 2020, Vande Bharat Mission was introduced where flight services was resumed. The respondent’s passport was already with the company and he gave his families passport to the company. The officials from the company visited the passport office to get the Exit Visa. Simultaneously the respondent applied for Vande Bharat Mission through the official website of the Ministry of External Affairs in association with the Indian Embassy. After applying Indian embassy will mail you the details with regard to the availability of flights. But there was a huge delay for its confirmation because first preferences were given to elderly people and disease affected ones. There was a huge delay for it confirmation. The family couldn’t get its approval in the first phase of Vande Bharat Mission. This delay created financial difficulties for the family mainly in terms of house rent. The family had to pay the rent for their apartment with all things gets packed. The second phase of Vande Bharat started on May 17, 2020 and finally his application got approved. But this time, it got approved only to his wife and daughter. The respondent again approached the Embassy to enquire about the confirmation. But there was no response. Then it was decided that let the wife and daughter leave the place first. At the same time, the respondent approached a private cargo company to travel their commodities to their home town. The cargo company charged 5000 Riyal per container.
The respondent had a luggage which occupied full container. It cost round RS.1, 05,000 for shipment alone. After one week of time, the exit visa of the wife and daughter got approved and their flight was on May 27. The sad part was that it was not a direct flight rather a transit. The transit was from Qatar to Bahrain and to Bombay and to Kannur.
The flight was scheduled at 12:30 am on May 27. They have to report at the airport three hours before the departure for check in purpose. On the way to airport, there was heavy checking where they have to show their Exit Visa, Covid-19 negative certificate. The respondent dropped his wife and daughter at the airport by 10 pm. The wife said, “Once we reached airport, it was a long procedure for check in, because we had to follow Covid protocols. As we had the relevant documents like Exit visa, Covid-19 negative certificate, there was no much issue. But the flight got delayed, where it departure only by 1:30 am instead of 12:30 am”. The wife and daughter reached Bahrain within one hour. The real difficulty starts from there. They missed the connection flight due to the delay of flight from Qatar. This created difficulty for the wife and the other passengers. The daughter was so sleepy and was restless. The airport officials assured them to arrange flights and they were made to settle in lobby. All the passengers were instructed to maintain social distance and seating arrangement was made in such a way. The wife says, “Usually in transit they will be provided with free food and accommodation. But they didn’t provide us anything due to this pandemic situation and were settled in lobby. The daughter was so sleepy, restless and we were hungry. There were limited restaurants at the airport and others were closed down. We had only Qatar Riyal and not Bahrain Dinar. So the main task was to get the exchange. There was a huge queue at the exchange counter. My daughter was so restless and she didn’t stay at lobby alone, when I went to the exchange counter. She came along with me and stands in the queue. She started to scream which created difficulty. It took almost one hour at the exchange counter”. After that they bought food. They waited at the lobby for 5 hours for their flight. This whole situation created a hectic feeling for the wife, daughter and for other passengers. Their transit flight arrived only by 8 am and got departure by 9 Am. The next transit was at Mumbai. They reached Mumbai at 1pm. In Mumbai transit, they were provided with free food, which was a great relief for the wife, daughter and other passengers. They had to wait there for two hours to get their next connection flight. Here they didn’t face much difficulties and started from there by 3:30pm. They landed at Kochi International Airport by 5:45pm.
Once they landed, officials from the health department collected their details from the airport. The wife chose for an institutional quarantine. The wife said, “I chose for an institutional quarantine, because in my native place, there are aged parents, where I don’t want to risk their life. They provided us accommodation for quarantine in a hotel near to the airport. The whole journey was so hectic where myself and daughter felt so tired. Once we reached the room, it was great relief for both of us”. The daughter was so tired and was having a slight fever. It was due to the hectic travel. The tiredness was the main health issues faced by both of them. They had to undergone a paid institutional quarantine for 28 days. After 28 days, with accompany of health officials, both of them went for the test and it was negative. After the result was negative, the wife and daughter went to home on June 26. After reaching home, they again had undergone quarantine for 7 days as self precaution. The whole quarantine expanse was Rs 40,000.
This was the experience of the wife. On the other side, the husband after dropping the wife reached home and was looking for his confirmation on the availability of flights. The third phase of Vande Bharat Mission began on June. Again with the same proceedings done before, he applied for it. After one week he got the confirmation from them through Indian embassy. Immediately after getting the confirmation, he contacted the cargo company to collect the commodities from his home. During that time only workers entered to the house to collect the commodities. The flight was scheduled on June 26 by 12:30 am. On the course of time he settled the payments of the cargo and the rent of his apartment. He vacated his apartment and his friend dropped him at the airport on June 25, by 10 pm. There were no much difficulties with regard to the documents, but it took long time for check in due to Covid protocols. The flight departure at right time and there was no much delay. The connection flight was from Qatar to Mumbai and to Kannur. The respondent reached Mumbai by 3:30 am. There was a delay of one hour for the next connecting flight to Kannur. Respondents and other passengers were made settle at lobby and were provided with food. The flight departure from Mumbai by 5A.M and reached at Kannur International Airport by 7: 30 am. It took long time at the airport to finish the procedures with the health officials. The respondent has to provide all the necessary information about their location and he chose for an institutional quarantine. After one hour by completing whole procedure, he travelled back to his native place. A taxi was arranged for the respondent to Palakkad. It was a 6 hours journey which cost around Rs 9000 for the taxi charge alone and it was met by the respondent. Then he reached at Thachampara, his native place and has to undergone a paid institutional quarantine for 28 days.
The respondent said, “The 6 hours of travel in taxi and also the flight journey made me so tired and once I reached room, took full rest. I felt slight fever during my quarantine days and informed the health officials. Then they gave me some medicines as precaution. After 28 days, the health officials took me to do the test and was tested negative”. The whole quarantine expanse was Rs 32000. On July 25 he went to his home where his parents and elder brother and family were staying. During his quarantine time the respondent’s commodities has reached at Palakkad. After the quarantine he went to Palakkad and settles the remaining payment and directed them to load it in his house. The commodities were loaded at an old shed near to his ancestral home. Then the respondent went to Ernakulam to his wife’s house to collect them.
At present the respondent and his wife with daughter is staying with respondent’s parents at his native place. The respondent says, “Future living is a question mark, and I have to do something. This pandemic situation has created a hectic experience with regard to the return travel. Moreover it has incurred a huge expense for me. For the flight alone, I had to pay around 24000, and for Cargo it cost 1, 05,000 and quarantine expenses was another one. The whole return travel was expensive (laughing). A kind of discomfort is experienced now because of jobless where I had a good job in past. Our house construction got stuck due to this situation and I have to complete it, which is my dream. My wife is in search of job, but this pandemic restricts her for the same and at the same time she wants to look after our daughter, where she doesn’t want to give burden to my parents. I want to admit my daughter to a new school. At present she is not admitted anywhere. So there are lots of plans in my mind which I have to fulfill for my family. I am looking for an alternative and if I get chance, still I am ready to go out”.
NAME: Family X
X is a 37 year lady and her family had been residing in Mumbai for last 12 years. The family comprise of 4 members- Husband of age 42 and two children- one boy and girl. Their age is 11 and 7 respectively. The family hails from Calicut and they have been settled in Mumbai for work purpose. X worked as a guest faculty in an aided college in Mumbai and her husband is working in an Oil company as a service manager. At the initial stage of Lockdown, entire economy was affected and all institutions were closed down. Educational institutions were one among them. On this scenario the educational institution in which the respondent was working have to terminate its guest faculties and as a result the respondent ‘X’ lost her job. Initial time of Covid 19 the family had a difficult time at the place of their residence due to the increase in Covid-19 cases. If any case is being reported, their housing area will be closed for the time being. Huge restrictions were imposed in terms of access and going out for the purchase of essential commodities and grocery. Home delivery was only relief for them. So initial time, they had to face lot of difficulties. Later husband’s company was closed down and instructed the employees to work from home.
On this scenario, the family found difficult to stay there during this pandemic situation and necessitates them to go back to their home state. The respondent says, “The situation was like a complete restriction where we have to confine in our own home. We had a neighborhood of around 10 Kerala families and we had discussion around this situation”. Finally they thought of moving from there and to go to their native places. They decided to travel by road through car because at that time the services of flights and train were not being restored. Five families were ready for the journey. The main task was to get the travel pass. In the beginning they have to face a lot of difficulties to get the travel pass. They registered in NORKA (Non-Resident Keralites Affairs) which is a department of the government of Kerala to redress the grievances of Nonresident Keralites. It took lot of time because first preferences were given to those who went to other states for medical treatment and residents of other states who seek to get specialist treatment in Kerala. In the website they entered the basic details and have to provide the address and ward number of the house where you will be quarantined for 14 days.
The wife says, “Within 24 hours, a health care member from our ward contacted us and asked whether our home in Kerala meets the requirement for quarantine. They asked our ward member’s name also”. Once the Kerala pass is approved, then only they can apply for Maharashtra exit and Karnataka transit pass. The travel date and time should match for both. So it was a long procedure and once the pass is being issued the information will be passed to the respective panchayat, then only they can arrange quarantine for the people. The respondent got Kerala pass within two days. After getting Kerala pass, they register for Maharashtra exit pass and Karnataka transit pass through NORKA Website. They have to enter the details of Kerala pass along with their scheduled date of expected journey. There was a delay for getting these two passes. After 2 weeks they could acquired travel pass which comprise of three- Maharashtra Exit Pass, Karnataka Transit Pass and Kerala Entry Pass. After acquiring the pass, before the journey, the family had done IRTPCR test and was tested negative. The journey was schedule on May 7, 2020.
The current family along with other five families started their journey in five cars each which includes a total of 18 members on May 7 2020. They started their journey from morning 5 am. The entire duration of the travel was 30 hours and it was a one stretch travel. In between there were no hotel facilities for accommodation and toilet. This was a difficult task for the entire families. The respondent says, “We rely on petrol pumps for toilet facilities and halt in our own car for sleeping. The availability of the toilet was the main issue for us. As there were total of 5 women including children, we depend on petrol pumps for toilet facilities and in some places it was not so clean. We were so precautious about this pandemic and carried food of our own for the entire travel. In between we stopped our car in a lonely place to have our food”. As they had correct travel passes, there were no much issues at the border. When they reached at Maharashtra Check post, as we had Kerala entry pass, they instructed us to stand in the second line. Only problem was that, it took long time at check post for checking, as there were lots of vehicles. One main issues faced by the family was that their Fastag was not activated which forced them to pay huge money at tolls. The husband says, “Before the journey we had activated our fastag, but when we reached the toll, it was showing as insufficient balance. As it was a toll, we were not in a situation to argue with them. We paid the money and after that we informed the customer care and raised our complaint. The problem got resolved only after a week which forced as to pay money for the toll”. This was the main burden for the family. They didn’t expect this situation.
The family quoted “we were so precautious of this situation, so that after handing over the money in each toll, we used to sanitize our hands”. They have paid around Rs 7000 for tolls alone. Travel expense was a major expense for the family in this course of travel. On the course of travel none of them experienced any major health issues rather they were so tired. They reached at Calicut on May 8, evening 4 pm. The husband says, “When we decided for this journey, I was so enthusiastic to drive. Even though it was hectic task during this situation because it’s not like normal travel, where there was no hotel and restaurants. More over we have to carry our own food, which was a main task for my wife. We also had to carry emergency things while travelling. We had to incur huge travel expense; especially the issue of fastag was really unexpected. At the beginning despite of this situation, children were thrilled. But over continuous travel, my wife and children became so tired. Children became more restless due to the one stretch travel. The main task was to find a suitable place to park our car for sleep and early morning to find a petrol pump for toilet facilities. As it was a one stretch travel, without any halting facilities, I was so tired. In normal case one stretch travel was not possible, but this lockdown situation necessitated traveling for the same. Once we reached our home, we took complete rest. Myself and wife had a body pain for 2 days”.
Once they reached at Kerala-Karnataka border, they had to face lots of procedures. The wife says, “At the check post, we had to get out from the car and report in person to the officials at the check post. We have to carry our Kerala pass and remember the address of the taluk given in the form. When we reached, there were around 20 people across three to four counters. The officials have face shields and masks and a glass partition between us and them. They will ask for our name, Taluk and phone number. We also have to hold up our form against the glass partition and undergo a temperature check. So it’s important to be fully prepared with disposable gloves and a mask. After that they will hand over another pass through a circular hole in the glass partition. Once that process is over, we disposed the gloves immediately and sanities our hands. Soon after the check post, there will be another police checking. Here fire force department will disinfect every vehicle to ensure safety. This took long time, because there was large number of vehicles in the queue. They will ask for the pass that we received, verify it and we are allowed to go. During this entire process, children became so restless, as they had to stand for the long queue”.
Once they reached their home, they informed their health inspector and undergone quarantine for two weeks. The family stayed near respondent’s native parent’s house where no one was staying there. So availability of food was not a great issue. They didn’t face much difficulty in terms of stigmatization from their family members and neighbors. There was stigmatization from the Husband’s neighbor side, which forced them to stay at the native place of his wife. This stigmatization from Husband’s native place shows the anxiety of the people in this pandemic situation. The family was happy once they reach their home state and they had feeling that it’s our home and problems won’t be there from their neighbor side. After 2 weeks, they informed the health inspector and went for the test. It was tested as negative. When they completed the quarantine, they requested for a quarantine completion pass from NORKA website. They got it within 2 days. At present husband is working from home and children have online classes. They are living in the same house, where they stayed for quarantine.
In this case, in terms of livelihood this family is self sufficient because they are able to continue their work. The respondent that is the wife lost her job due to this pandemic situation. At present the respondent is not looking for another job. She is busy looking after the household chores and the children. They have not yet decided to go back to Mumbai. X said “if schools are reopened, we might be going back, but at present we have not decided anything regarding the return to Mumbai. Anyways we have to go there, when situation becomes normal, because we have lots of commitments”. This family had to face a hectic travel experience on the course of Covid-19 with regard to get travel pass, toilet facilities, accommodation and so on. They are with a hope to go back when the situation becomes normal.
Name: Family Z
Z aged 54 years has been residing in Qatar for last 15 years. Z has a wife living with him and his son is pursuing degree first year at his native town Perinthalmanna, Malapuram district. The wife has been staying with him in Qatar for 3 years. Z was working in a construction company under marketing wing. The respondent has been working in this company for 7 years and before that he has done many jobs in Qatar. It was a company with 1000 employees, but due to Covid-19 company didn’t have much work and business which led to the termination of employees. Z was one among them. Now the company has only less than 100 employees. This necessitated Z and his wife to come back to their home state. As they were staying in the company rented apartment, they informed the company and prepared themselves to vacate it. At the initial time of Covid-19, the respondent booked the ticket to go to his native place. But very next day, globally whole flight services got cancelled. The respondent got stuck and had to stay there. The main difficulty faced by them was the availability of flights. They informed the company and got the permission to stay in the apartment till the flights get resumed. In such a pandemic, the respondent was not in a situation to search for another apartment. The flight service got restored only on May. ‘Z’ came back to Kerala only on September, due to delay in flights. Till September, the livelihood of the respondent and his family was a question mark. The wife says, “It was so hard to stay there during this pandemic situation. We got the groceries from the nearby super markets and we managed to stay. But huge restrictions were imposed to go out. So we stayed inside our apartment and were thinking about when we can leave this place. One positive aspect was that company took after us when we were in need of help”.
On April last week the wife suffered from severe fever and he informed his company HR about this. Then she underwent the test and it was tested negative. The husband said that his wife was so tensed about this situation and that might be the reason for this fever. The wife was so anxious about this situation and she wants to reach her home as soon as possible.
The family had to undergo a miserable time to get the flight. When government introduced Vande Bharat Mission on May and Z registered for it through the official website of the Ministry of External Affairs in association with the Indian Embassy. Here they provided their details, priorities and reasons for the travel. In the column for reason they typed it as loss of job, and the dates they are looking forward for travel. After that Indian Embassy will send them mail for the confirmation. But there was no quick reply with regard to its confirmation. The respondent had to wait for two months for the final reply and confirmation. The respondent frequently checked the mail for the same. He even decided to visit the embassy in order to enquire about this. But due to Covid protocols, restrictions were imposed in terms of access and directly it was not possible to enter the embassy. Then they applied with the same proceedings for the 2nd and 3rd phase of Vande Bharat. But there was no response. The family had to stay there till the confirmation and had to pay rent. They were helpless and frustrated in this situation and were forced to stay there. All these made them to go back immediately to their home and could not handled the situation.
After 2 months that is on July, fourth phase of Vande Bharat was started and they got the confirmation. Again they have to wait for another one month for the final fly. In that time period, the company officials collected the passport of the wife. The respondent’s passport was already with the company. The company officials got the exit visa for them. Before the journey, they have done the RTPCR test also and was tested negative before their journey. So till September the family resided at Qatar. Their journey was scheduled on September 15, 11: 30 pm. The flight charge was taken by the company. They reported at the airport by 8:30 pm. It took long time for check in process because there was long queue. The officials took more time for each passenger. This long procedure created giddiness for the wife, as she was not so well. As they had the right documents, there were not many issues with regard to this. The family reached at Kannur airport by 4 am in the morning. Once the family reached at Kannur airport, there was lot of procedures where they have to meet the health department officials at the airport. They have to fill a form issued by health department, where they have to fill the home details including the ward number, ward member’s name. The family chose for home quarantine and gave the number of the health inspector of their area. They were asked to report at their native Angadipuram Panchayat at Perinthalmanna Taluk. It took around one hour to complete the entire procedure. It was early morning and there was no taxi to their area during that time. They were asked to wait at the airport, till the taxi was arranged to them. The wife was already tired and the family waited for three hours at the airport. Finally by 8 am taxi was made available and they started their journey.
It took around 4 hours travel from Kannur to Perinthalmana town and another 15 minutes to their Panchayat Angadipuram. Once they reached their native place, they immediately called the health official as per the direction from the airport. It is from the panchayat, they are directed for Quarantine. The health officials came and instructed them to undergo quarantine for a period of 28 days. The journey from Kannur to Perinthalmana around 4 hours travel after the flight journey was hectic which cost around Rs 7000. Prior to their journey, the respondent had made arrangement to clean the house. Once they reached home, they took complete rest. In the quarantine period, the food was prepared by them and they successfully completed their quarantine period.
In this case Z is an example for joblessness that lost his job due to Covid-19 which forced him to return to his home state. Future living is a question mark and only he has a savings which he had acquired of his 15 years of living in the Qatar. The respondents say, “Only thing I have done is that I have constructed a home in my native, while I was working in Qatar. This was a great relief. At present future living is a question mark. The most difficult thing is the continuous enquiry from neighbors and relatives about my future plan. This creates difficulty. I have little savings and have to do something. At the moment I have not decided to go back, and planned to settle here. Let’s see.”
Name: Family C
The respondent ‘C’ aged 45 years resides at Perambur, in the Chennai district along with his wife and children. The age of wife is 40 and the age of daughter is 15 and 12 for his son. They have been residing at Perambur for two years. The respondent has a diploma in Mechanics. He had worked in Dubai for 6years, doing many jobs related to the mechanical field. He went to Dubai by taking loans from his friends and relatives. But he could not survive for long time and came back to Kerala. Then he started to do minor jobs and took loans for his survival. Two years ago he went to Perambur, in search of job. In Perambur, there was a friend of the respondent who had a business of selling automatic motor. It was motor, which can be fixed in well, underground tank and when the water level is low, with the help of this motor it will automatically gets activated and fill the tank. This was the business done by the respondent’s friend. Friend helped the respondent by entrusting him with the duty of marketing cum installation. The respondent has to market the product and has to do the installation work. Respondent visited the companies, houses for the same and it was going smoothly. Meanwhile wife and his children were staying with respondent’s parents at Ernakulam. In the same house, there were respondent’s elder brother and family. Due to some issues with in-laws, respondent took his wife and children to Perambur. Then they have been residing at Perambur for two years and took a small house for rent. Children were admitted to a school near to their home. Wife was an M. ED holder. She applied for job, but the vacancies were available only in schools, which was too far away from their home. So in order to look after the children, she didn’t go for job.
The respondent says, “Everything was going smoothly and I was able to work well. It was a hectic job, because frequently I have to directly visit companies, houses for marketing the product. For this purpose, I bought a second hand scooter by mortgaging some of my wife’s gold. A vehicle was necessary for my job. Even there were situations, where I had to spend late night for installation in certain houses. Besides these difficulties I enjoyed this work a lot, because it was my need (laughing). My friend gave me 50% share for the each product which I sold. I was able to meet all my expenses”.
The respondent resided at an interior part of Chennai, where drinking water facility was an issue. They depend on bore well for other purposes. For drinking purpose, the family depended on sealed container water which cost Rs.60 per container. Two months before the pandemic situation that is on January the situation began to change. The friend decided to stop the business, because there was no much profit for him. He informed this to the respondent and it made discomfort to him. But respondent understood the situation very well, because he was into it. Finally by mid of January the company was close down. The family was confused of what to do next. As the respondent was expert in the mechanic field, he had a thorough knowledge about the motor, which he had sold earlier. So he decided to create the motor of his own, because he was aware about its parts. For this purpose, he was able to manage for buying the tools and materials required for the same. The respondent worked late night for creating the motor at his own home. To an extent he succeeded in it. He was able to create around 30 motors. For this purpose, he had to take loans in order to purchase the materials. It had incurred huge money for the respondent. He took a personal loan of 2 lakhs with high interest. Next issue was to get a patent for his product. Through long procedure, somehow he acquired a patent. After getting the patent, he slowly started to market the product of his own. He was able to install it to some houses out of his personal contacts. He was alone and worked hard, but there was no much progress. During this difficult situation, comes another issue of pandemic called Covid-19. The family had to confine at their own house due to the restrictions imposed by the government.
At the initial period of the pandemic, much restriction was not imposed in certain areas. So the respondent was able to visit different places for marketing his product. But slowly it started to decline, because Lockdown was imposed by government in order to control the spread of diseases. This lockdown restricted the respondent to go out for his job and was forced to stay at his house. On the other hand people won’t allow outsiders to enter the house. All these created difficulties for the respondent. When lockdown was declared the respondent and his family had to confine in their rented home. During that period they have to face lot of problems with regard to basic provisions like food, grocery and water. The family usually depends on sealed container water for drinking purposes. In usual days the water container will be delivered once a week. But when lockdown was declared the availability of such containers was difficult, because the restrictions were imposed for its access.
The vehicles delivering cans get restricted to certain areas which have affected the family a lot. Similarly the family could not arrange necessary groceries due to the sudden lockdown. After that availability of groceries was met with the help of nearby supermarkets. Availability of medicines was another major issue faced by the family. But overall the main problem was the availability of drinking water. The future living was a question mark for them. The respondent didn’t have any hope and the motors which he created were lying in the room. He was not able to sell them. All these difficulties along with the loss of job forced the family to return to their home state. Even though the travel was an issue because train and flight services were stopped during that time and the return journey became a question mark. So the family stayed there till the travel facilities become normal. They tried to manage there by getting help from the friends’ in order to meet the needs like paying the rent. The family managed to stay there for another 2 months. On May private tourist buses were started to Kerala. So the family booked the tickets for it. As they were 4 members it cost around Rs.2500 per person. But the family was in need to return, so they booked the ticket. Meanwhile, the respondent shifted the remaining motors to his friend’s house because traveling with all these things was a difficult task and he settled the remaining rent of his house. He sold his scooter to a used vehicle shop and got some money out of it. The family had to do RTPCR test and was tested negative. Children continued in the same school, and they were having their online classes.
The journey was scheduled on June 5 at 8:30 pm. The respondent said that we had to show our test results to the bus officials before our journey. The bus was sanitized before the journey and proper care was taken by them. There was a distance between the seats and the births as it was sleeper class. As they maintained social distance only limited passengers were accommodated in one bus. The travel pass between the states and other documents were taken care of by the bus operators. The duration of the entire travel was 14 hours. The wife quoted, “it was a hectic travel experience, because usually the bus will stop on the way for having food and it will be relief while travelling. But due to this situation, it was not able to stop. So we had to carry our own food for the travel. The long journey created nausea for me and my son. Many times, the bus stopped for us and we vomited on the way. Many passengers were anxious by seeing this because of this pandemic situation. My daughter was fine. We rely on petrol pumps for toilet facilities. As it was a serious situation, we had to wait for long time to get the toilet. Everyone was anxious about this situation and maintain social distance everywhere. Taking long time for toilet facilities created discomfort for bus operators because they had to reach the destination at
the right time. All these created a discomfort for us on the course of this entire travel”. It took a long time to the check posts. In between the travel, police officials’ entered into the bus and checked whether Covid protocols are being followed or not. Once they reached Walayar Check post, all the passengers were asked to get down and directed to meet the health officials assembled there. The respondent said, “At the check post there were 3 to 4 counters and at the entrance there were two desks. At the fast desk they checked the temperature and in the next desk, we had to show our negative certificate report. From there they collected our house details, and gave the number of health official. They instructed us to call the health official once we reached there. The entire procedure took one hour because it had to cover the entire passengers. Then we started our journey again”.
The family reached their destination by 1:30 pm. They moved to the wife’s brother’s house which was vacant as he was residing outside India. Once they reached, they contacted the health official and were instructed to undergo quarantine for 14 days. They prepared food by themselves and groceries were made available to them by the wife’s parents. After 14 days, the family went for the test and was tested negative. After the quarantine period the family went to the respondent’s house where his parents and elder brother was staying.
In this case, the respondent is jobless at present and future living is a question mark. Moreover he had to repay loans which he had taken for the creation of the motors. As said earlier, before the lockdown he has installed motors in some houses. They have called him in many situations complaining about the damage of the product. The product got damaged due to their misuse. The respondent was not in a situation to go there. Once the lockdown was lifted, the respondent went to Perambur to replace the product to customers and came back. This was temporary. The respondent is searching for a better living now. At present the educational expense of his children are being met by the respondent’s parents. The wife has started to sell homemade snacks to the nearby areas. Despite she has issues with in-laws; this small business is a necessity for the family to survive. But still the respondent had to look for a great opportunity for the survival. At present the family relies on the respondent’s parents for their survival.
ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
CASE ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION
The researcher has identified the following themes for analysing the data
⮚ Fear and Anxiety
⮚ Financial loss
⮚ Covid-19-Travel Issues and Problems.
⮚ Health Problems
⮚ Government instructions
⮚ Expectations about future
Here, the researcher attempts to analyze the main reasons for the return migration of Malayalees to Kerala during the Covid-19 pandemic. Joblessness is one among them. Joblessness refers to the state of being unemployed. In the study, all four families experienced joblessness. In three cases, the husbands lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while in the second case, it was the wife who lost her job. Joblessness was one of the primary reasons that compelled these families to return to their native place. The intensity of their experiences and the reasons for job termination varied among the cases.
Cases 1 and 3 share a similar reason for joblessness, which is the economic uncertainties faced by their respective companies. In Case 1, the respondent worked as an assistant purchaser and mediator, responsible for purchasing goods at low cost for the company. The respondent mentioned, “My main job is to meet the companies directly and purchase goods at a low cost for my company. Safari Group is an MNC with hypermarkets and electronic shops throughout Qatar. We were staying in a rented apartment, and I was fully satisfied with the job.” However, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, travel restrictions were imposed, preventing the purchaser from meeting with other companies. This led to economic uncertainties for the respondent’s company, resulting in employee terminations, including the respondent (Case 1), who lost his job.
“A kind of discomfort is experienced now because of jobless where I had a good job in past”. Case1 said.
Similarly, in Case 3, the respondent worked in a construction company under the marketing wing. With the outbreak of Covid-19, the company faced a decline in business, leading to employee terminations, and the respondent lost their job in this situation.
In Case 2, the husband worked as a service manager in an oil company and did not lose his job. Instead, he had to work from home. In this family, it was the wife who became jobless. Since the husband was still employed, the family did not face significant job-related issues.
Case 4 is another example of job loss due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The respondent ran their business selling motors. However, the pandemic restricted their access to shops and companies, making it difficult for them to continue their work. The loss of their job due to the lockdown resulted in delays in loan repayments, further complicating the respondent’s financial situation.
All of the above cases demonstrate individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Joblessness is a major issue that affects people’s livelihoods, and to survive and for various other reasons, people often migrate to different areas, regions, or countries in search of better job opportunities. When sudden pandemic situations like Covid-19 occur, they can significantly impact a large number of people in terms of employment rather than just health. As a result, it compels them to return to their native place.
Fear and Anxiety
The researcher identified fear and anxiety as another reason for the return migration of nonresident Malayalees to Kerala. Here, it refers to the fear and anxiety experienced by families towards the Covid-19 pandemic. The intensity of anxiety varied greatly among the respondents.
In Case 1, the family was deeply anxious about the pandemic. This fear and anxiety led them to pack their belongings by themselves. “As our life was going smoothly, we didn’t expect such a situation. We had recently purchased many new household items. But when the pandemic unexpectedly occurred, it was a real shock, and packing everything was a challenging task. There were no workers available to help us, and due to the fear of Covid, we didn’t want to involve outsiders. Since we have a small child, it wasn’t safe to allow strangers into our home. So, my wife and I packed everything ourselves, and it took almost a month,” said Case 1. The family was very concerned about the safety of their daughter and thus didn’t allow workers to enter their house for packing. The cargo company workers were only allowed in after the wife and daughter had left. The family preferred to stay home and opted for door delivery of groceries. They were highly aware of the situation and, considering their elderly parents, they chose institutional quarantine instead of home quarantine. The wife in Case 1 explained, “I chose institutional quarantine because I didn’t want to risk the lives of my aged parents in my native place.”
Cases 2 and 4 experienced similar anxieties because both families travelled by road. Case 2 returned to their native place in their car due to restrictions imposed on their housing colony. Throughout the entire journey, the family was anxious about the current situation. This anxiety made them take extra precautions during the travel. The respondent stated, “We were extremely cautious about this pandemic and carried our own food for the entire journey. We were so careful that after handing over the money at each toll, we would sanitize our hands.”
In Case 4, the wife and daughter experienced health issues during travel, which made fellow passengers anxious and suspect it could be Covid-19.
In Case 2, the anxiety in the neighbourhood in the husband’s native place led to a slight stigmatization, forcing the family to stay at the wife’s native place. The anxiety of people around them became one of the main issues observed during this pandemic situation.
In Case 3, the anxiety within the family was similar but slightly different. They had to confine themselves to their own home, which created fear among them. The wife became anxious about the situation and even suffered from a fever as a result. The combination of her husband’s job loss, the restrictions on going out, and the increasing number of cases created anxiety for the wife, making it difficult for her to continue living there. In this case, the anxiety of the wife, along with her husband’s joblessness, became the main reason for their return migration.
The Covid-19 pandemic has instilled a sense of fear among people, and its intensity varies among individuals. Some become more cautious, while others find it difficult to cope with the situation, leading them to leave their current place of residence.
In terms of financial loss, it refers to the financial difficulties and expenses incurred by the families before and during their travel to their native place. Each case experienced a different degree of financial loss depending on their situation.
In Case 1, the family had to spend money during various phases of the pandemic. They incurred expenses such as apartment rent, cargo charges for shipping their belongings, flight charges, institutional quarantine expenses, and taxi charges from the airport to the quarantine centre. To transport their household items, they relied on cargo services, which cost around Rs. 1,05,000 for a full container. The wife and daughter had to spend extra money at the airport to purchase food for a transit flight, which is usually provided along with the flight charges. The quarantine expenses for the wife and daughter amounted to Rs. 40,000, while for the husband it was Rs. 32,000. The respondent also paid Rs. 9,000 for the taxi from Kannur International Airport to their native place, which was a 6-hour journey. Case 1 mentioned, “Moreover, this pandemic situation has incurred a huge expense for me. For the flight alone, I had to pay around Rs. 24,000, and for cargo, it cost Rs. 1,05,000. The whole return travel was expensive (laughing).”
In Case 2, the family had a different financial experience during the pandemic. They travelled to their native place in their car, so their expenses were related to road transport. Their main expenses were on petrol and toll booths. However, the toll booth expense was unexpected for the family. They faced issues with their Fastag, which was not activated and had to pay a significant amount at the tolls. The husband in Case 2 explained, “Before the journey, we had activated our Fastag, but when we reached the toll booth, it showed insufficient balance. As it was a toll booth, we couldn’t argue with them. We paid the money and later informed customer care and raised a complaint. The problem was resolved only after a week, which forced us to pay toll fees amounting to around Rs. 7,000.” Travel expenses were a major financial burden for the family during their journey.
In Case 3, the family was compelled to stay in their location until their flight was confirmed. The respondent, who worked in the marketing wing of a construction company, lost his job due to the company’s lack of business. He remained unemployed from March to September, awaiting confirmation of the flights. During this period, he had to pay rent without a job. The positive aspect was that the flight charges were covered by the company. The family also incurred a taxi charge of Rs. 7,000 from Kannur International Airport to their native place in Angadipuram, Perinthalmana District.
The situation in Case 4 was entirely different from the other three cases. The respondent worked for his friend’s company, marketing motors. When the friend closed the business, the respondent lost his job and started making motors independently. However, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, he was unable to sell his products and had to stay at home. Repaying the Rs. 2 lacking personal loan with high interest became a difficult task for him. The family had to stay in Perambur, Chennai, until transportation services resumed. They had to pay rent despite the respondent’s joblessness. To meet their needs, the respondent had to sell his scooter. The family returned using a private tourist bus, which cost around Rs. 2,500 per person, as they were a family of four. The respondent experienced significant financial loss, and currently, the family relies on their parent’s financial support for survival.
The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 has created economic uncertainties for people in various ways. Returning home became a necessity for many families, resulting in significant financial difficulties. The degree of financial uncertainty varies depending on the occupation individuals had. The aforementioned cases serve as examples of individuals who faced challenging financial times during the pandemic. In Case 2, the expense was mainly related to travel, whereas in the other cases, the expenses were more extensive. It became a necessity, and they had no choice but to spend money to return home.
Covid-19 – Travel Issues and Problems
The return journey of people during the Covid-19 pandemic was a major issue and a challenging task. In this research, the analyst examines the travel issues and problems faced by the respondents. The travel experiences during the return journey varied among individuals, and family members encountered their difficulties and issues.
Case 1 and Case 3 returned to their native place by flight, while Case 2 and Case 4 travelled by road. Case 1 and Case 3 encountered similar issues regarding flight confirmations. However, the problems and difficulties experienced by the family members differed in these cases.
During the initial phase of Covid-19, flight services were globally cancelled. In both cases, the respondents and their families were stranded and had to stay in Qatar for two and five months respectively. Both of them lost their jobs and decided to return to their native place, waiting for flight services to resume.
When the Vande Bharat mission was introduced, both of them applied for it through the official website of the Ministry of External Affairs in association with the Indian Embassy. They waited for confirmation for a long time. The delay was due to the priority given to elderly and medically affected individuals. They frequently checked the emails from the Indian Embassy for updates.
In Case 1, the family received confirmation for the Vande Bharat mission in its second phase. However, in the second phase, only the wife and daughter received confirmation, while the husband had to wait for the third phase. The wife and daughter faced difficulties throughout their travel. They encountered numerous challenges at the airport. They were only able to get a transit flight from Qatar to Bahrain, Mumbai, and finally Cochin. They had to arrive at the airport three hours before departure for check-in purposes.
“Once we reached the airport, the check-in process was lengthy due to Covid protocols. Since we had the necessary documents like the Exit visa and negative Covid-19 certificates, there weren’t many issues. However, the flight was delayed, departing at 1:30 am instead of 12:30 am,” the wife said. Upon reaching Bahrain, they missed their transit flight to Mumbai due to the delay in their flight from Qatar. The child became hungry and restless. The complimentary food usually provided on transit flights was unavailable. They had to rely on restaurants at the airport, where they had to exchange their Qatar Riyal for Bahrain Dinar. These were the major difficulties they faced at the airport.
“Usually in transit they will be provided with free food and accommodation. But they didn’t provide us anything due to this pandemic situation and were settled in lobby. The daughter was so sleepy, restless and we were hungry. There were limited restaurants at the airport and others were closed down. We had only Qatar Riyal and not Bahrain Dinar. So the main task was to get the exchange. There was a huge queue at the exchange counter. My daughter was so restless and she didn’t stay at lobby alone, when I went to the exchange counter. She came along with me and stands in the queue. She started to scream which created difficulty. It took almost one hour at the exchange counter”, the wife said.
They had to wait for 5 hours to get their next transit flight. In this case, the wife and daughter had a tough time at the airport, which was not their fault but rather a mistake made by the airport officials. These difficulties made the daughter restless. Before the journey, the husband had to settle the cargo payments and vacate his apartment. After that, he only had to go through the lengthy check-in procedure at the airport. Since he had the correct documents, he didn’t face many issues. He then had to undergo another 6-hour journey from Kannur Airport to his native place in Palakkad. After completing the quarantine, he settled the remaining cargo payment to unload the materials. In this case, the family faced difficulties before their return journey, involving packing, flight confirmation, and airport issues.
In Case 2, they received confirmation of their flight only in the fourth phase of the Vande Bharat Mission. The check-in process at the airport took a long time, but there weren’t many issues otherwise.
Once they reached Kannur, the family couldn’t immediately find a taxi to their native place. They had to wait another three hours at the airport to get a taxi. After that, they had a travel time of around 4 hours and 15 minutes from Kannur to their hometown. Here, they encountered difficulties in terms of flight confirmation, waiting until the fourth phase, and minor issues at the airport during check-in and finding a taxi.
In Case 2, the family travelled by road in their car because flight and train services were not yet restored at that time. There was a delay in obtaining the travel pass. It took a long time because priority was given to those who travelled to other states for medical treatment and residents of other states seeking specialist treatment in Kerala. They needed three passes: a Maharashtra exit pass, a Karnataka transit pass, and a Kerala entry pass. They registered with NORKA and had to wait for two weeks to receive all three passes. It was a lengthy process that required filling in details, including ward numbers and ward members’ names. The family faced numerous difficulties during their journey. They relied on petrol pumps for restroom facilities since there were no hotels available. The family slept in the car.
“We relied on petrol pumps for restroom facilities and slept in our car for accommodation. The availability of clean restrooms was a major issue. Since we had a total of 5 women, including children, we relied on petrol pumps for restrooms, but in some places, they weren’t clean. We were extremely cautious about the pandemic and carried our own food for the entire journey. At one point, we stopped the car in a secluded area to have our meal,” said Case 2.
Another major issue was the deactivation of the Fastag. The family had a continuous 30-hour journey ahead.
“Before the journey, we had activated our Fastag, but when we reached the toll booth, it showed insufficient balance. Since it was a toll booth, we couldn’t argue with them and had to pay the toll in cash. We contacted customer care and lodged a complaint, but it took a week for the problem to be resolved, which forced us to pay toll fees,” Case 2 explained.
Furthermore, there was a significant delay at check posts due to the inspection process.
Case 4 had a different experience compared to Case 2. In Case 4, the family travelled by road in a private tourist bus. They had to wait for two months to secure a bus service for their return journey. Before the journey, they had to undergo an RT-PCR test and carry the certificate. The family faced difficulties while travelling, such as relying on petrol pumps for restrooms, carrying their food, and enduring a 14-hour travel time. The bus operators arranged the seats while maintaining proper social distancing.
“It was a hectic travel experience, because usually the bus will stop on the way for having food and it will be relief while travelling. But due to this situation, it was not able to stop. So we had to carry our own food for the travel…. We rely on petrol pumps for toilet facilities. As it was a serious situation, we had to wait for long time to get the toilet. Everyone was anxious about this situation and maintain social distance everywhere. Taking long time for toilet facilities created discomfort for bus operators because they had to reach the destination at the right time. All these created a discomfort for us on the course of this entire travel” their wife (Case 4) said.
From all the above cases, it clearly shows that the return journey had created lots of difficulties for the respondents and their experiences differ. Before travel, especially in this pandemic situation, it has become mandatory to follow certain things and it’s not so easy to travel in a normal situation.
In this study, the concept of health problems refers to the major health issues the respondents suffered during their return journey to Kerala. In the return journey, the health issues faced by the respondents vary, according to the situations and the mode through which they travelled.
In Case 1, the long hours of a journey through flight created tiredness for the wife and daughter. It was not a direct flight but rather a transit. The transit was from Qatar to Bahrain and Bombay and Kannur. The flight from Qatar was late and they lost the transit flight from Bahrain to Bombay and they had to wait for 5 hours to get the next flight to Bombay. It took 4 hours to reach Bombay and they had to wait there for two hours to get their next connection flight to Kannur. It took 2 hours to reach Kannur. The wife and daughter had to travel around 12 hours including the delay and waiting for transit. The whole journey made them tired and the daughter experienced a slight fever during quarantine days.
“The whole journey was so hectic where myself and daughter felt so tired. Once we reached the room, it was a great relief for both of us”. My daughter was so tired and was having a slight fever. It was due to the hectic travel”, the wife said. On the other hand, the husband had a similar issue of tiredness and fever. He didn’t have many issues at the airport as his wife and daughter experienced. His transit was from Qatar to Bombay and Kannur. The respondent had to travel another 6 hours from the airport to his native place.
“The 6 hours of travel in taxi and also the flight journey made me so tired and once I reached room, took full rest. I felt slight fever during my quarantine days and informed the health officials. Then they gave me some medicines as precaution. After 28 days, the health officials took me to do the test and was tested negative” the respondent said.
Case 3 has a similar health issue. Before the journey, while they got locked in Qatar, the wife experienced a heavy fever but tested negative. The long procedures at the airport created giddiness for the wife.
In Case 2, the family came by driving their car. The continuous 30 hours of travel has created tiredness for the entire family. They didn’t suffer from any other major health issues.
“When we decided for this journey, I was so enthusiastic to drive. Even though it was hectic task during this situation because it’s not like normal travel, where there was no hotel and restaurants…. At the beginning despite of this situation, children were thrilled. But over continuous travel, my wife and children became so tired. Children became more restless due to the one stretch travel….. As it was a one stretch travel, without any halting facilities, I was so tired. In normal case one stretch travel was not possible, but this lockdown situation necessitated traveling for the same. Once we reached our home, we took complete rest. Myself and wife had a body pain for 2 days”, Case 2 said.
The experience and health issue faced by case 4 is somewhat different. They travelled on a private tourist bus. The continuous 14-hour travel has created nausea and vomiting for the wife and son.
“The long journey created nausea for me and my son. Many times, the bus stopped for us and we vomited on the way. Many passengers were anxious by seeing this because of this pandemic situation”, case 4 said.
Travelling in this pandemic situation is a big task and continuous travel can create different types of health issues. This is the same in the case of normal travel, but more precaution is needed in this pandemic situation.
In this study, the government instructions refer to the procedures and instructions given to the respondents after reaching their home state. The researcher also identified the government procedures the respondents had to follow before their travel.
In all cases, they were instructed to undergo quarantine once they reached their native place.
Cases 1 and 3 have similar experiences with getting flight confirmation, government procedures and the final procedure of undergoing quarantine. Both cases applied for Vande Bharat Mission for the flight and had to wait a long time for its confirmation. But there was a huge delay in its confirmation because first preferences were given to elderly people and disease-affected ones. In case 1 the wife and daughter got confirmation only in the second phase and for the husband on 3rd phase. In case 3, the family got confirmation only on the 4th phase of the Vande Bharat Mission. Both cases have undergone quarantine for 28 days. Case 1 was chosen for institutional quarantine and Case 3 underwent home quarantine. Health officials at the airport collected the information from them and arranged the institutional quarantine facilities for Case 1.
In Case 3, once they reached the airport at the native, they filled out a form issued by the health department, where they have to fill in the home details including the ward number, and ward member’s name. The family chose home quarantine and gave the number of the health inspector in their area. Once they reached their native place, they immediately called the health official as per the direction from the airport. It is from the panchayat, they are directed for Quarantine. The health officials came and instructed them to undergo quarantine for 28 days.
Cases 2 and 4 came by road but the government proceedings they have undergone vary. Case 2 came by driving their vehicle, so they had to register in NORKA to get the travel pass. They had to acquire 3 travel passes; a Maharashtra exit pass, a Karnataka Transit pass and a Kerala Entry pass. There was a delay in getting those passes. First preferences were given to those who went to other states for medical treatment and residents of other states who seek to get specialist treatment in Kerala. On the website, they entered the basic details and have to provide the address and ward number of the house where you will be quarantined for 14 days.
“Within 24 hours, a health care member from our ward contacted us and asked whether our home in Kerala meets the requirement for quarantine. They asked our ward member’s name also” the wife said. Once the Kerala pass is approved, they applied for a Maharashtra exit and Karnataka transit pass. The travel date and time should match for both. So it was a long procedure and once the pass is being issued the information will be passed to the respective panchayat, then only they can arrange quarantine for the people. After 2 weeks they could acquire a travel pass which comprises three- Maharashtra Exit Pass, Karnataka Transit Pass and Kerala Entry Pass. After acquiring the pass, before the journey, the family had done an RT-PCR test and tested negative.
Once they reached Kerala Border, it took a long time to complete the procedures and they were instructed to go into quarantine. The family undergoes home quarantine for 14 days.
“At the check post, we had to get out from the car and report in person to the officials at the check post. We have to carry our Kerala pass and remember the address of the taluk given in the form. When we reached, there were around 20 people across three to four counters. The officials have face shields and masks and a glass partition between us and them. They will ask for our name, Taluk and phone number. We also have to hold up our form against the glass partition and undergo a temperature check. So it’s important to be fully prepared with disposable gloves and a mask. After that they will hand over another pass through a circular hole in the glass partition. Once that process is over, we disposed the gloves immediately and sanities our hands. Soon after the check post, there will be another police checking. Here fire force department will disinfect every vehicle to ensure safety. This took long time, because there was large number of vehicles in the queue. They will ask for the pass that we received, verify it and we are allowed to go. During this entire process, children became so restless, as they had to stand for the long queue” said Case 2.
Case 4 had a similar experience to case 2 but was a little different. The family in Case 4 came on a private tourist bus. They had to carry Covid-19 negative certificate while travelling. At the border, they faced long procedures similar to case 2 and undergo quarantine for 14 days.
“Once we reached Walayar Check post, all the passengers were asked to get down and directed to meet the health officials assembled there. The respondent said, “At the check post there were 3 to 4 counters and at the entrance, there were two desks. At the fast desk, they checked the temperature and at the next desk, we had to show our negative certificate report. From there they collected our house details and gave us the number of health officials. They instructed us to call the health official once we reached there. The entire procedure took one hour because it had to cover the entire number of passengers. Then we started our journey again” case 4 said.
Expectations about future
A major question that the respondents face is about their future. What is next after coming from the migrated place? The future is something unpredictable. It is a matter of Fear, anxiety, optimism, inspiration, sacrifices and new challenges.
In all 4 cases except the second one; future living is a question mark. In case 2, the husband still has a job and he is working from home. Only his wife has lost her job and at present, she is not searching for anything. She likes to engage herself with household chores and taking care of her children. The family is self-sufficient.
For case 1, the future living is a question mark. He has lots of things to meet and do. The respondent has to complete the construction of his house, wants to admit his daughter to a school, his wife is in search of a job and at present they are living with the husband’s parents. The respondent is still ready to go back if gets a chance because his duties to be fulfilled for the family made him think like that.
For case 3, the respondent is another example of a jobless due to this pandemic situation. He has decided not to go back and wants to settle in his native place. Future living is a question mark for his family, where he is the only earning member in his family. The continuous enquiry from the neighbours about his plan creates difficulty for him. The respondent has some savings which he has made in his 15 years of life in Qatar. Planning to do some business and at present he has not decided anything.
“Only thing I have done is that I have constructed a home in my native, while I was working in Qatar. This was a great relief. At present future living is a question mark. The most difficult thing is the continuous enquiry from neighbors and relatives about my future plan. This creates difficulty. I have little savings and have to do something. At the moment I have not decided to go back, and planned to settle here” Case 3 said.
Case 4 is the most affected person among all 4 cases and his future living is a big question mark. The respondent has a lot of burdens on him, including repayment of loans, education of his children, and construction of the house. At present the family relies on Husband’s parents for their needs. The education expense of the children is met by the respondent’s parents. The wife has started a small homemade snacks service, but progress is slow. Here the respondent is in a great struggle for his survival.
Hope for the future is an important factor in the survival of the people. The pandemic situation called Covid-19 has adversely affected the livelihood of the people. The intensity to which they are affected depends on their lifestyle. Case 2 is an example of it, in terms of how merely it’s being affec
ted. On the other hand case 4 is an example of people who are much affected because of this pandemic. Future living involves not only individual survival but also his family. The sudden outbreak has made life hopeless. The humanity including the cases of this study is in a hope for a better survival of their future.
MAJOR FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
The major findings of the study explored the experience undergone by Non-Resident Malayalees on their return journey to Kerala during the Covid-19 period. It points out the reasons for return migration, difficulties, travel issues; government proceedings undergone by them and their expectations about the future. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the life of many people and the degree to which they are being affected differs. It also sheds light on the hopelessness of the respondents towards their future living.
Challenges of joblessness due to the pandemic
Job or in other words occupation plays an important role in individual life. A job and the income generated out of it are essential for survival on this human earth. To survive and for a better living people use to migrate. The reason for migration varies. Keralites have been on an increasing trend in migration. Kerala has witnessed both internal and international migration. Among them there is an increasing trend of gulf migration by Keralites and over a period it has been expanded to other countries and also within Indian states. So all over the world, we can witness a Malayalee. The types of occupations they do differ based on their life situation, education and many other factors. The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected the lives of humanity globally. Nonresident Migrants including Keralites are one among them. Covid-19 has disrupted the whole country and economies. Due to economic uncertainties of different countries, it has led to joblessness and many Keralites are being affected because of this. Joblessness has become one of the reasons for the return migration of Malayalees to Kerala. All the above cases of this study are being subjected to joblessness. Only in case 2, the wife the victim of joblessness, but still, husband has his job. The concept of joblessness and its challenges are related not only to jobs but also to their future lives. When they become jobless, they found it difficult to stay in their host country and are forced to return to their home country. Joblessness is one major issue faced by non-resident Malayalees due to Covid-19. Many of them are trying hard to stay back in their host country even in the adverse situation. If they leave the country and return, they might not get better jobs back in their country. Since the pandemic similarly affected the world. They are clueless about the debts and financial responsibilities they have. This situation causes severe anxiety and fear in them. After returning the major crisis faced by non-resident Malayalees was that they couldn’t find a replacement job, and many households depended upon a single income from abroad. They had a burden of debts, house rents, house construction, educational needs, household expenses etc. This created an economic shock for them. The adversity and the magnitude of this crisis may vary with blue-collar and white-collar employees. As World Health Organization (WHO) explained there will not be a fast return to the old normal. The difficulties undergone by them due to jobless varies depending on the type of occupation they do. The difficulties undergone by those who work in low-sector job is different from those that those who work in white-collar jobs. The difficulties undergone by these jobless respondents vary according to the types of occupation they had. In case 1, the respondent is an example of jobless, and he had to incur huge expenses on his return journey. He was able to meet those expenses because he was engaged in a white-collar job. This is not the same for case 4. Here the respondent had to sell his scooter and got help from his friends to return to his home. Case 3 had to undergo the similar experience to case 1, and at present, he has some savings. So the impact of Covid-19 and joblessness varies among people depending on their social situation and the types of occupation they had pursued. The return migration of Keralites can create difficulties for the state too. So there should be more focus on making new policies plans and strategies to safeguard the interests of the returnees.
Fear and Anxiety
The pandemic called Covid-19 has created fear and anxiety among people. Fear of the virus, fear of getting infected, fear of losing dear ones, fear of getting isolated all of these fear and anxiety are very common among everyone during this pandemic situation. Globally all are so affected in this extraordinary time. People are all locked up. Nobody can do anything. The only thing we can do to save ourselves is to stay indoors and help ourselves. The regular routines and habits got altered. There was a stay at home advisory. The entire world got shifted to a virtual lifestyle. Even though such changes happened people were desperate and fearful. Fear is a new ingredient associated with the pandemic. The situation faced by returned non-resident Malayalees is also not so different. All the cases in the study like everyone are very much anxious about the situation. This anxiety has created health problems and also made them become more cautious about this situation. During the entire travel, they were so careful. The anxiety has created a small stigmatization, which is evident in the 2nd case. The fear and anxiety can also be related to the future aspect too, rather than confining to the virus alone. They are mainly having the fear of job loss, they feel financial fears, they are afraid of future expenses. They are afraid of the new set of circumstances they have to face in their homeland.
They are anxious about their acceptance in the local communities. The fear and anxiety they face are deep. The returned non-resident Malayalees suffer social and economic turmoil which creates uncertainties in their life. This make them anxious about their future life. They fear that their interrupted jobs and salary will disrupt their family and households. They fear that they cannot go back to the countries where they had migrated and they can never get back their jobs. Covid 19 is a time of uncertainties for these returnees. The immobility, limited resources, sudden outbreaks of the virus, different tensions, exclusion, etc make their situation worse. These issues suggest that there must be an inclusive method to sort out the socio-political and economic fears the returned non-resident Malayalees faced.
Financial loss and Covid-19
The return journey to the home country has made the respondents to incur huge expenses. The return journey was not so easy during this pandemic situation. The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 has created economic uncertainties among people in different ways. Coming back home became a necessity for the families and it has created huge financial difficulties for them. The degree of financial uncertainties varies, in terms of the occupation they had. The above cases are examples of such people, who had difficult times in terms of finance during this pandemic situation. The people had to meet their household expenses, cargo expenses in case of shipping the commodities, travel expenses, quarantine expenses and so on. Here in case 2, they had to meet the expense only in terms of travel. In other cases, it was not the same. It was a necessity and they had no choice rather spend money to come back. Case 4 has to sell his scooter and got help from his friends to travel back to his native place. Case 1 has to pack all his household commodities and arrange cargo for its shipment. Case 3 had to stay at the apartment without a job and pay the rent. All these incidents show that people had to incur huge financial losses before their travel and on the other hand expenses they had to incur for their travel. Once they reached back, all the returnees were instructed to undergo quarantine. Those who underwent an institutional quarantine had to meet its expenses. The pandemic has forced the people to return to their homeland and in the course of it, a huge expense was a burden for the people. Most of the nonresident Keralites are in financial crises due to the loss of jobs and along with that, the return journey had created another set of financial difficulties for them. These difficulties and how respondents reacted to them are based on the types of occupations they pursued.
Travel issues and problems during Covid-19
The return journey of people to their home country is not an easy task during this pandemic situation called Covid-19. During the outbreak of Covid-19, globally entire transportation system was cancelled. The people got stuck in their area of residence. There was a situation where people had to wait for the transportation system to resume. It includes every mode of transportation like flights, trains and by road. Once these systems got resumed, it was not an easy task for the migrants to travel. There were lots of issues and procedures to be fulfilled by them. The experiences undergone by the respondents differ in terms of their mode of travel. Those who came by flight had different experiences and issues when compared with the people who came by road.
Cases 1 and 3 came through flight. They had a hectic experience on their return journey to Kerala. There was a delay in the confirmation of flights. Case 1 got a transit flight; where the family could not go together. The wife and daughter got the confirmation in the second phase and for the husband it was in 3rd phase. The wife and daughter had a hectic experience at the airport in terms of delay of flight, unavailability of food at the transit, long procedures for check-in, carrying relevant documents like Covid negative certificates, long journey and procedures to be followed after reaching the native place; that is undergoing quarantine for 28 days. On the other hand, husband came through 3rd phase and had to travel another some more hours to his native after reaching the airport. The whole journey was hectic for the family which created slight health issues like tiredness. Case 3 had to undergo the long procedure at the airport and the whole procedure during the departure and arrival had created giddiness for the wife.
The people who came through the road had to undergo different experiences and procedures. They have to register through official government websites for getting the travel pass. If its long distances interstate travel, it’s necessary to get the exit and entry passes of different states. In the course of applying for these passes, the information is passed to the health departments of the native areas to arrange quarantine facilities and to contact the respective clients. There were long procedures at the check post and it is from the check post the health officials direct the people to quarantine. The continuous road journey can lead to many health issues for people. There are no hotel facilities for accommodation. The people on the return journey had to rely on petrol pumps for toilet facilities. They had to carry their food.
Case 2 came by road through driving their car and had to undergo a difficult time to get a travel pass (Maharashtra exit pass, Karnataka transit pas and Kerala entry pass). The family relied on petrol pumps for toilet facilities and slept in their car. They had to undergo a long procedure at the border and check the post. Continuous travel of 30 hours leads to tiredness for them.
Case 4 came by road through a private tourist bus. In this case, the tourist pass officials will take care of the travel passes. The passengers had to carry a Covid negative certificate. The continuous journey has led to the health issues like nausea and vomiting by the wife and son who had to rely on petrol pumps for toilet facilities. Similar to case 2, they had to spend a long time at check posts for completing the procedures for further journeys.
From all the above cases, it clearly shows that the return journey had created lots of difficulties for the respondents and their experiences differ. This is evident as a problem faced by migrants during their return journey. Before travel, especially in this pandemic situation, it has become mandatory to follow certain things and it’s not so easy to travel in a normal situation.
Role of government
Government officials play an important role during this pandemic situation. The duties entrusted to them vary depending on the departments. The entire travel of the returnees is under the control of the government officials. The procedures vary in different cases depending on the mode of their travel. Same like the respondents, the government and its officials had to undergo a hectic task during this pandemic situation. In terms of flight, the procedures for ensuring the availability and confirmation of the flight, carrying necessary documents, and procedures to be completed at the airport are some of the duties undertaken by them. In terms of road transport, there are police officials and other departmental officials at the borders and check posts for checking; the issuing of travel passes for interstate travel, assigning health officials at the check posts, railway stations and airports. People with correct travel documents are allowed to enter the state. The health officials will direct the returnees to undergo quarantine and follow up them about it. In terms of institutional quarantine, the health departments under the government in collaboration with hotels will arrange institutional quarantine centres and also convert certain centres into First-Line Treatment Centres (FLTC). Arranging quarantine facilities for the returnees was the main task of the government thereby avoiding direct contact of the respondents to the public.
Expectations about future
The expectation of the future by each individual is different in their ways. It is different from person to person. Their ideas about the future rest on several factors like the support they receive from family and friends, how they are being seen by society, and psychological elements like their views on future living willpower, fear, anxiety etc. Rebuilding a better future is the main issue faced by the returnees during this pandemic situation. Hope for the future is an important factor for the survival of the people. The pandemic situation called Covid-19 has adversely affected the livelihood of the people. The intensity to which they are affected depends on their lifestyle and the type of occupation they pursued. Future living involves not only individual survival but also his family. The sudden outbreak has made life hopeless. Future living is a question mark for the cases in this study except the 2nd one. In case 2 only the wife has lost her job and the family is self-sufficient.
The aspect of future living involves many factors like; better jobs, household expenses, house construction, the educational expense of the children, repayment of loans and more to becoming self-sufficient without depending on others. In some cases, the existing burdens have to be solved like repayment of loans. Case 4 is an example of this category. How the family members cope with this situation is another concern. In case 4, the wife has started a small business to revive the family. But when it comes to case 2, the wife who is the victim of joblessness, has not decided to do anything but rather look after the household chores and children. This shows the difference between how people expect their future and it mainly depends on their social condition and lifestyle. In case 1, the respondent is worried about their future living which includes lots of plans like resuming the construction of his house, and find a new job, and concerned about the education of his daughter and still, he is ready to go back when the situation becomes normal. The views of case 3 are different, he is more optimistic with the hope of starting a new business out of his savings he has with him. At the same time, he is worried about how society views him.
All these case shows the expectations people have for their future during this pandemic situation. With a optimistic attitude, it can help the respondents to rebuild a better future. The way of attaining such an attitude is not an easy task which depends on the life situations of the people.
Through the present study, the researcher attempted to develop an understanding of the experience undergone by the Nonresident Malayalees on their return journey to Kerala during the Covid-19 period. Migration is an ongoing social-global phenomenon. People move to another area due to various reasons for their survival. From the study, it is clear that Keralites have migrated to different countries and also within Indian states over a period. The lives of nonresident Malayalees are very much affected because of the pandemic situation called Covid
19. It has forced the people to return to their home country. The uncertainty caused by Covid-19 across the world is very drastic and uncontrollable. It is multidimensional. The crisis created by the pandemic is deep and devastating in all aspects. It has made a constant threat to population health and individual existence in general. It shattered almost all welfare systems, economies and job structures all around the world. Non-resident Malayalees outside and within India and their return journey during the period of stringent lockdown measures of the pandemic was not that easy. Even though they wanted to stay back, the fear anxiety and pressure they faced in the host country forced them to return. On the course of their return journey, they had to undergo a difficult time. It includes; the delay in confirmation of flights, the long procedures for applying the same, long procedures at the check post, continuous travel without hotel and restaurants, reliance on petrol pumps for toilet facilities and so on. The experience undergone by the returnees differs from person to person. Each member of the family had to undergo a difficult experience on their return journey. Even after returning, they face uncertainty about life and the future. They are trying hard to cope with the new normal in the context of a pandemic. The returnees are facing issues in finding new jobs. Their dependents at home have to face economic and psychological distress. Returned Non-resident Malayalees also faced aversion from the neighbourhood as they had the fear of the virus.
Their future living is a question mark for them. Rebuilding a better future has become the need for the returnees. Future living involves different aspects like household expenses, education of the children, finding new jobs and becoming self-sufficient. The pandemic has created psychological distress among people. It’s important to build an optimistic attitude towards building a better future. The way of building such an attitude is not an easy task for everyone. This depends on the social condition of the people. Even if people are ready to do new ventures during this pandemic situation, it’s not so easy and lots of restrictions are being imposed on it. Support from family and friends is important for the respondents in building a new hope for the future. All are in hope for the normal situation and there are people with a hope to go back to other places for a better future. The government have to take very careful measures for the inclusion of returned Malayalees.
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