The National Disaster Management Authority has developed the National Migrant Information System (NMIS), an online dashboard “to capture the information regarding movement of migrants and facilitate the smooth movement of stranded persons across States”, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla announced in a letter to all states and UTs on May 16. The portal is built on the existing NDMA-GIS portal. It is not clear if using the portal is mandatory for the states/UTs. The note also does not specify if the purpose of the portal is limited to the pandemic and if it will be dismantled and data deleted after the pandemic is dealt with.

NMIS is a central repository that will allow the sending and receiving states/districts to seek and give permission for movement of migrants. States can upload individuals’ data (which they have already collected) in batches to the portal through an API. It is not clear if the API has already been built, or who is building it.

What does the data on individuals include? It includes “standardized” data that states “are already collecting”: name, Aadhaar number, age, mobile number, district of origin and destination, date of travel, migrant labour/student/tourist/pilgrim/etc., current address, permanent address, states on the route (for a bus journey), mode of transportation — train or bus. It is not clear why the states need to collect migrants’ Aadhaar number (Odisha for instance, had mandated migrants to submit Aadhaar details before entering the state, but later made it optional).

How will this data be used? A unique ID will be generated for every migrant. This ID will be given to the Ministry of Railways by the state of origin while requesting for trains. As per the brief note on NMIS that the Home Secretary shared, this way, the data will be visible to destination states as well for “further monitoring”.

  • Using mobile numbers, contact tracing and movement monitoring will be done. It is not clear how contact tracing will be done using mobile numbers. It is not clear if it will use the Mobile Subscriber Migration system that the Empowered Group 9 on Data Management and Technology has developed. The Brief Note also doesn’t specify if NMIS will allow the government to track an individual’s movements, or if the data will be visible in an aggregated and/or anonymised manner.

What can the dashboard do? It is a dashboard of dashboards that will allow states to do “logistic management, risk index, quarantine alert etc [sic]”.

Who has access to the data? All nodal ministries can monitor migrants’ movements using this portal. This includes “States/UTs, Ministry of Railways and other stakeholders [sic]”.

What will the states have to do? Appoint a nodal officer at the state and district level for this, ensure that data is uploaded to the portal in the standardised data formats, and share data using API/online portals if states have their own platforms. At least one state — Karnataka — had added a layer to track COVID-19 cases to their GIS portal.

We have reached out to the National Disaster Management Authority for clarification.