Pastoral Care of the Migrants in India


The History of the universe is a story of migration. From the time of creation all types of living beings, birds, animals and sea creatures, have been migrating from one place to another for various reasons, such as in search of food, in search of habitation and in search of better weather conditions. The migration of human beings is also as old as the creation itself. Open the book Genesis, you will find “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod, to the east of Eden” (Gen 4: 16). Then we have the Patriarch Abraham moving from place to place. “The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your kinsfolk and your father’s house for the land which I will show you” (Gen 12:1). Abram went away as the Lord had commanded him, and Lot went with him (Gen 12:4). Now there was a famine in the land and Abram went down to Egypt where he lived as a stranger” (Gen 12:10) “Abram went up from Egypt to the Negeb, he and his wife and all that belonged to him and Lot with him (Gen 13:1). “Abram moved his tent and came to dwell by the terebinths of Mamre which are at Hebron” (Gen 13:18). Migration continues through Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and his brothers. The Book of Exodus narrates the migration story of Moses and Israelites from Egypt through wilderness to Mount Sinai and to the Promised Land.

The New Testament contains numerous references to traveling and journeys, such as those carried out by Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus, their flight to Egypt, return to Nazareth, journey to the Temple of Jerusalem; and the continuous traveling of Christ during his public life and the journeys of the Apostles. The evangelists present the life of Christ a continuous journey. He went through towns and villages proclaiming the Gospel and healing “every disease and sickness” (Mt 9:35). 


Human Migration is one of the most indispensable social phenomena. Moving from place to place is characterized human behaviour since the beginning of history. Mobility and wandering are therefore expressions of human nature and of its cultural development. Therefore migration can be described as “people on the move.” Migration gives meanings of relocation, immigration, passage, exodus, movement, journey, voyage, trek and resettlement. In short it means movement of people from one place to another to lead a better life. Normally migration takes place through the movement of people from rural or least developed areas to the urban centers or relatively more developed areas, based on the criteria, such as nature, distance, time, age, sex, ethnicity, etc. Migration has been classified as national, international, rural-urban, short-distance, long-distance, seasonal and permanent.

Reasons for Migration in India

Migration of human beings could be voluntary, for personal reasons or involuntary, being forced due to certain external factors. Migration in India is largely on account of unemployment. People, young and old, move from villages to cities, from smaller town to bigger cities, and even from cities to cities, in search of jobs, shelter, better living conditions, for improved health facilities and for better education and job opportunities. Migration becomes compulsion for survival for those affected by civil war, political and  communal conflicts; for victims of natural calamities such as floods, famine, earthquake; for those forcefully evacuated on account of developmental projects of the Governments. The number of displaced persons (IDP) was estimated to be 500,000 in 2009, according to World Bank Report published in 2010. Sometimes one is compelled to migrate in order to safeguard his/her human dignity and human rights. People of under developed areas, hills and mountains, faced with demographic pressure, leave their villages and settle down in advanced regions of the country. As the population increases there is a natural decrease in availability of food and space. So people are compelled to move out. Uneven distribution of resources as well as socio-economic situation of different States of India results in wide spread intra-State and inter-State migration

In India, as per the census 2001, there were 314.54 million migrants within the country. In some regions of India, three out of four were migrants. (Migration Report 2009). Migrants are not required to register themselves in India either at the place of origin or at the place of destination. As there is no registration of migrants in India, Census and National Sample Survey (NSS) are the two main sources of migration data in India. Census provides data on migrants based on place of birth (POB) and place of last residence (POLR). If the place of birth or place of last residence is different from the place of enumeration, a person is defined as a migrant. On the other hand, if the place of birth and place enumeration is the same, the person is a non-migrant. Migrants defined on the basis of POB or POLR are called the lifetime migrants because the time of their move is not known.

Positive aspects of Migration

The driving forces for human mobility are unavoidably marked by basic human behaviour and instincts including, the search to protect one’s life and lives of loved ones, the desire for a better future for oneself and the endeavor to improve prospects for future generations and for the community one belongs to. It contributes a great deal to the growth of economy of the country of origin as well as the country of destination and to the development of both countries. Moving away from home has allowed millions to get good education, find steady employment, support their families and enjoy greater economic opportunities than might have been available at home. For many millions of migrants, the migration process has given new life and greater success.

Challenges faced by the Migrants

The migrants in India face enormous challenges when they land up in an unknown city or town. As they do not find any shelter, they live under the open sky, in the open fields or near the railway tracks. Here they meet with hostility of the neighbors. They find it difficult to communicate as they do not know the language of the place. They find it hard to get a job and even daily wages. Seeing their helplessness, the contractors, employers, take advantage of the situation. Helpless migrants, especially young girls, are bought and sold by the locals, ill treated and abused. As the migrants do not have any identity in their own country, they are denied ration card, voter’s card, driving licenses, electricity, phone connections etc. The  migrants in India are scattered and unorganized which means they do not have any permanent job, no bargaining power, no fixed salary, no future security, no medical benefits, no fixed working hours, no vacation, no weekly holiday. These people on the move easily become victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, get infected with T.B., STD, HIV/AIDS and many other diseases. The human dignity and human rights are denied to them. Hence often they become antisocial, and get involved in criminal actions.

The children of the migrants are the worse sufferers. Often they are separated from the parents. If they are with their parents they meet with hostility wherever they go. They do not get proper education, they remain illiterate, they do not get health facilities, and they are mal nourished and live in squalor.

The massive migration causes over population in Indian cities resulting in numerous social, economic problems, administrative difficulties, shortage of food and health facilities, traffic congestion and many other related issues.

Legal Protection

In order to protect the rights and safeguard the interests of migrant workers, the inter state Migrant Workmen Act 1979 was enacted. The Act is intended to regulate the employment of inter-state migrant workmen and to provide their conditions of service. It applies to every establishments and the contractor, who employ five or more inter-state migrant workers. The Act has provision for issue of Pass –Book to every inter-state migrant worker with full details, payment of displacement allowance equivalent to 50% of monthly wage or Rs.75 whichever is higher, payment of journey allowance including payment of wage during the period of journey, suitable residential accommodation, medical facilities and protective clothing, payment of wages, equal pay for equal work irrespective of sex etc. The main responsibility for enforcement of the provision of the Act lies with the Central and State Government/Union Territories in the establishment falling in the Central and State Sphere respectively. But, the worrying factor is about its implementation?  Unfortunately the genuine concern for the problems of workers on the part of government officials who are entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of workers especially migrant workers is lacking. The disadvantage of this Act is that, it only deals with migrant workers not concerned about their family as such.


Our concerns for migrant workers are to make provision for the rights of workers in the work place which includes improvement in wage, decent working conditions, ensure the social security and welfare measures in respective of worker’s family also. It is important to adopt the way of improvement in collective strength and collective bargaining power including the organizational skills, make secure permanency of decent job and income the methods to check out of the exploitation and harassment etc.
The problem of migration ought to be checked through a multi dimensional course of action through rural development, provision of improved infrastructure facilities, equitable dispersal of resources to remove regional disparities, employment generation, land reforms, increased literacy, financial assistance, social security schemes, effective law enforcement and proper documentation of citizens , e.g. ‘Aadhar’ card. 

Initiatives of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI)

In order to strengthen the involvement and activities of the Church in the Labour Movements and Labour Welfare activities a federation is established under the aegis of CBCI Labour Commission. Workers India Federation, (WIF) after due deliberation, has visualized a major initiative for the welfare of unorganized migrant workers in the urban and semi urban areas. We have been actively involved in assisting unorganized migrants through different programs organized for them at different levels such as,
• Mapping and keeping  touch with  unorganized migrant workers by forming SHGs, Unions and Forums of workers. 
• Facilitating workers social security by registering them into social security schemes named ‘MSY’ for pension(Swavalamban) , medical (Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna )and  education scholarship for their children . 
• Providing facilities for registration of migrants through parishes and church institution networks, one can also register by logging
• Legal assistance at the time of crisis and facilitate the returnees to sustain their life with proper reintegration into society.  

While we endeavor to curb unhealthy migration by providing awareness about the local employment opportunities to the rural poor (eg. through National Rural Employment Guarantee Act - NREGA programme), there is a need to continue to cater to the needs of the vulnerable sections of the migrant groups in the cities, work sites and slums. This prompted us to start Workers’ Facilitation Centers (WFC) in these areas in order to help those migrants who require financial, healthcare, children’s education and legal assistance. Of late at the 30th  CBCI General body meeting, Bangalore 2012, the Catholic Church in India has recommitted herself to  work for  the liberation of the weaker sections like  tribals, women and dalits, in particular, She wants to reach out more to unorganized groups like fish workers , farmers, migrants, domestic workers, victims of trafficking (Para 8.6)


The Church needs to take pastoral care of long distant truck/lorry/ bus/rail drivers. Each year, an increasing number of women and children fall victims to trafficking for the purpose of sexual or other exploitation. The problem of street children is global and is escalating. It is aggravated by many causes such as poverty, family disintegration, abuse, abandonment, neglect and social unrest. Students, who go to developed countries/Indian states to pursue their studies with great enthusiasm, often find themselves in precarious conditions. Away from home, they find it difficult to narrate their hardships to the strangers. In all these circumstances the Church needs to come out with great dedication and commitment to provide pastoral care.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI, in his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2009, wrote that the mission of the Church and of every baptized person today, is to make Jesus known to every person. It is “a mission that, with attentive pastoral solicitude, is also directed to the variegated universe of migrants – students far from home, immigrants, refugees, displaced people, evacuees – including for example, the victims of modern forms of slavery and human trafficking.”

The Constitution of Vatican II Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) says, “There is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person, since he stands above all things, and his rights and duties are universal and inviolable. Therefore, there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to protection of privacy, and rightful freedom, even in matters of religion” (G.S. 26). 

Keeping these exhortations of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI and of the Vatican Council II, we must take note of the presence of Jesus, based on the well known Biblical passage of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus: “Jesus came up and walked by their side” (Lk 24:15). The pastoral care of the migrants is indeed “a walk together.” 

Bishop-in-Charge                                         Members
Most Rev. Oswald Lewis                              Most Rev. Jose Porunnedom  
                                                                 Most Rev. M. Devadas Ambrose 
Education Message published by Fr. Jose Vattakuzhy, Secretary and WIF director,  
CBCI Office for Labour, CBCI Centre Ashok Place, New Delhi 110001
Tel (O) : +91: 011-23362907, Websites :,,
E-mails :, 


*Workers India Federation (WIF)-An organization for coordination of CBCI Labour Commission’s Labour Movements and Unions. * Workers’ Facilitation Centers (WFC).-Workers’ Animation Centers   * Mazdoor Sureksha Yojana (MSY)- Social Security Programs * www.jobtech ,in-Oline Employment Exchange

Pavaratty Shrine

The official web site of Pavaratty Shrine: St Joseph is the patron of this parish and plenty of pilgims flow everyday specially on wednesday.

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