Project Rise by Pratham Education Foundation and Citi Foundation provides budget hostels for migrants from rural areas, and helps them with their documentation process to ensure an easy transition to their new lives in the city.
Sone ki raahon mein sone ko jagah nahi..
A popular Hindi film song beautifully describes the plight of migrants who move to big cities, with their gold paved streets, but do not find space to sleep even on the pavements.
Poor youth from villages will not have to sleep on footpaths anymore while building their castles in the city of their dreams. When young people from rural areas move to big cities in search of better job prospects, they leave behind the safety and security of their homes. They might hail from humble backgrounds, but most of them did have roofs over their heads, even if it was a thatched one. Having never travelled beyond their cluster of villages, migrant youth struggle to adapt to the hustle-bustle and mad rush of a big city.
The team at Pratham Foundation, an NGO working in the rural education space, tracked 2,300 vocational training students between April 2014 and April 2015 after they got jobs in different cities. The team discovered that nine percent of the students went back to their villages directly after training. And of those who did start on their jobs, only about half (48 percent) of the students were still at work three months later. A year later, only about a fourth (23 percent) were still employed.
Medha Uniyal from the Pratham Foundation team says,
We found that food, accommodation and language problems were the main reasons. Most of the youth could not afford clean and hygiene places to stay and started having health issues due to poor quality food.
Education changes lives
Pratham Foundation, founded by Madhav Chavan and Farida Lambay, focuses on long-term interventions to address gaps in the Indian education system. The team works across 23 states in India and reaches 6.5 million kids, and 25,000 youth each year.
The budget hostels are a part of Project Rise and is spearheaded by Rajesh Thokale, Azeez Gupta, Medha Uniyal, Rani Sharma, Radhika Samaradivakera and Nishant Baghel.
Recently started, the project has already provided budget hostel accommodation for over 200 youth. The team is hoping that at least 3,000 people benefit from the project by end of the year. The hostels are functional in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Chandigarh.
Project Rise is aimed at providing a ‘home away from home’ to low-income youth, hence safety, especially for women, is a priority. The hostels for men and women are located in separate premises. The buildings are fitted with CCTV cameras and have wardens in supervisory capacity. All hostels are located in gated communities with security guards.
The funds for the project came in through a grant from Citi Foundation.
Migration and culture shock
The concentration of economic opportunities in major cities has resulted in a large inflow of rural and small town youth into such areas. However, most of the migrating youth are overly dependent on their relatives or acquaintances in the cities and lack either the exposure or the support structures to adjust to the culture shock.
This problem is even more acute for first-generation migrants from very backward areas, who are faced with a unique set of challenges in cities that they are not equipped to deal with.
Therefore, most migrant youth are driven into urban slums and are even unable to cope with their new jobs, often ending up unemployed. Many are forced to go back home, having lost the little savings they had, which they used up to move to the city.
The hostels offer accommodation for 30-90 days in the range of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 per month, or on a daily basis for maximum 20 days at Rs 50 per day. Pratham also organises a community outreach programme where its Migrant-Support team assists migrants living in different locations of the city by conducting activities that will focus on basic upskilling, job readiness and urban adjustment.
Other than bunk beds, safe drinking water, geysers, clean washrooms, all the hostels are provided with kitchens with stove and cooking utensils, that can be used by people during their stay.
The Pratham team also arranges for doctors when needed and helps out with regular counselling and organising a support system. The youth are also guided through the process of applying for PAN cards, Aadhaar cards, bank account, and insurance. They also conduct sessions on computer and English skills to further equip them.
Bridging the rural-urban divide
Pratham has also established residential and non‐residential training centres to train youth from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds, and provide them with employable skill sets, resulting in access to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.
The youth can choose to train in sectors like construction, hospitality, automotive, healthcare, beauty and wellness and tailoring. They are also taught basic English, and equipped with digital literacy and life skills, in addition to the industry-specific component.
India still lives in its villages. As our urban spaces grow, so does our need for manpower. Migration is a part of the development process and cannot be stymied. A disciplined transition with an emphasis on documentation can result in better assimilation and could even have other positive results like reduced crime rates and a better quality of life among the migrant population.