Rajiv Khandelwal

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2005


This profile was prepared when Rajiv Khandelwal was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
While migration and relocation have been integral to human history, seasonal migration is a growing phenomenon in India today. This migration is occurring not in isolated pockets, but across states and districts from regions that are resource poor, disaster-prone, arid or under-industrialized. With no fixed destination and a lack of marketable skills, this floating faceless population of migrants is exploited by contractors and middlemen and remains in a perpetual cycle of debt. Seasonal migrants, says Rajiv Khandelwal, are “environmental refugees” who exist outside the formal political and economic system.
Rajiv has set up the Aajeevika Bureau in the city of Udaipur in southern Rajasthan to address the above realities and help transform the nature of migration. According to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Aajeevika study, 64 percent of rural households in southern Rajasthan report that migration accounts for 46 percent of household income. Rajiv’s target group is the seasonal, unskilled migrants who spend a total of more than three months away from their villages for 10 to 18 days at a time taking unskilled jobs that pay an average of Rs 60. Most of these migrants are primarily from lower castes and other marginalized communities and are illiterate or dropped out of school at an early age.
The bureau examines the specific needs of these migrants and equips them with basic skills that allow them to get more dignified city jobs that pay higher wages. It also provides destination counseling and assists with job placement, in addition to offering health, education, and legal aid services. These services are offered primarily in the point of origin for migration, but Rajiv is currently in the process of expanding to points of destination through a network of Aajeevika bureaus and partnerships with citizen sector organizations and businesses working in those areas.
Rajiv’s work is introducing an element of security into migrants’ lives. His bureau is altering entrenched social dynamics by creating an identity for migrants and according legitimacy to their livelihoods through recognizing their integral role in the public domain.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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