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• The new Cohort-based Migration Metric (CMM) shows that inter-state labor mobility averaged 5-6.5 million people between 2001 and 2011, yielding an inter-state migrant population of about 60 million and an inter-district migration as high as 80 million @*

• The first-ever estimates of internal work-related migration using railways data for the period 2011-2016 indicate an annual average flow of close to 9 million migrant people between the states. Both these estimates are significantly greater than the annual average flow of about 4 million suggested by successive Censuses and higher than previously estimated by any study @*

• Various studies show that the major reasons for migration have been work/employment, business, and education, marriage, moved at birth, and moved with family/household. Scholars argue that government data tends to underestimate the flows of seasonal/circular migration, a stream dominated by people belonging to socio-economically deprived groups with an extremely low asset base and poor educational attainments and skill sets. It is this floating segment of the migrant population, mostly comprising people working seasonally in brick kilns, construction, plantations, mines and factories that is most vulnerable to exploitation by labour contractors and faces relatively greater hurdles in participating in elections and politics $$

• Domestic migrants, especially so-called un-domiciled domestic migrants, suffer from a lack of formal residency rights; lack of identity proof; lack of adequate housing; low-paid, insecure or hazardous work; no access to state-provided welfare services including denial of rights to participate in elections even though elections in India have acquired the mythical status of ‘the greatest show in Earth’. Thus, these exclusionary practices lead to their disenfranchisement and treatment as second-class citizens $$

• In India, internal migration accounts for a large population of 309 million as per Census of India 2001, and by more recent estimates, 326 million (NSSO 2007-2008), nearly 30 percent of the total population. Internal migrants, of which 70.7 percent are women, are excluded from the economic, cultural, social and political life of society and are often treated as second-class citizens **

• Lead source states of internal migrants include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu, whereas key destination areas are Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Karnataka. There are conspicuous migration corridors within the country: Bihar to National Capital Region, Bihar to Haryana and Punjab, Uttar Pradesh to Maharashtra, Odisha to Gujarat, Odisha to Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan to Gujarat **

• 59 percent of women migrants from ST backgrounds and 41 percent of SC background were short term and circulatory migrants in comparison to just 18 percent of migrant women workers of upper caste origin. 39 percent of women migrants from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) backgrounds were also short term and circulatory migrants, although the majority (65 percent) were long-term and medium-term migrants in comparison to 43 percent of SC and 32 percent of ST women in these latter categories $

• While 5 percent of the female migrant workers and 9 percent of the male migrants reported having been targets of harassment by local people at destinations, 23 percent of the women and 20 percent of the men had experienced violence, threats and being forced to work in the course of migration. Interestingly, among male migrants, contractors were identified as the most common perpetrator, while more than half the women who had faced such harassment/ violence identified the principal employer and the supervisor as the perpetrators $

• 78 percent of rural and 59 percent of urban women migrant workers were working as unskilled manual labour; 16 percent and 18 percent were in skilled manual work in rural and urban areas respectively. A total of 6 percent of the rural and 23 percent of the urban women migrants were in a combination of clerical, supervisory, managerial jobs, or work requiring high professional/educational skills (highly skilled). Ten percent of the urban women migrants were in the last category of the highly skilled in comparison to just 1 percent of the rural women migrants $

• Across the board, the overwhelming majority of the workers – more than 93 percent in the case of rural women migrants and more than 84 percent in the case of urban – had no provident fund and no health insurance. The worst situation was, however, in relation to daycare/crèche facilities, to which only 3.4 percent of the rural women migrants and 4.4 percent of the urban had any access at all $

• Proportion of households migrated to rural areas was very low, nearly 1 percent. In urban areas, on the other hand, the migrated households constituted nearly 3 percent of all urban households ¥

• The migration rate (proportion of migrants in the population) in the urban areas (35 percent) was far higher than the migration rate in the rural areas (26 percent) ¥


@* Economic Survey 2016-17 (released in January, 2017) (please click here to access)


$$ Concept Note prepared for the national seminar entitled: 'Contesting Spaces & Negotiating Development: A Dialogue on Domestic Migrants, State and Inclusive Citizenship in India’[/inside], to be held at Center for Public Policy, Habitat & Human Development, School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai) on 25-26 March 2016 (please click here to access the Concept Note)


** Social Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India (2013), by UNICEF, UNESCO and Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (Please click here to download the report)


$ Migration  and Gender in India by Indrani Mazumdar, N Neetha and Indu Agnihotri, Economic and Political Weekly, March 9, 2013, Vol xlvIiI No 10

¥ Migration in India, 2007-08, National Sample Survey, MOSPI, Government of India,




Keeping track of mass migration is an enumerator’s nightmare. Even the Census of India can’t always get this accurately. Before a government agency is able to take note of distress or seasonal migration, people often come back for the harvest season or move elsewhere. Mass seasonal migration has become an almost fixed event for some industries like brick manufacturing or sugarcane farming. Distress and seasonal migration invariably means no education for children, no voting rights for adults, and missing out on BPL facilities at either place of birth or the site of work. 

The worst sufferers of seasonal and distress migration are the poorest of poor, the tribals (STs) and the Dalits (SCs), who invariably have meager base of human or physical assets. This is particularly so in the most backward and mostly rain-fed districts of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, Karnataka and Maharashtra. It is quite common for migrant women to work as agricultural labourers and for men to seek employment in the unorganized sector. 

Distress migration also fuels a chaotic growth of unorganized/ informal industries and haphazard expansion of urban slums. Owners of small and informal factories love migrant workers. For they are more willing to work for less wages, are less likely to be absent for trivial reasons, are dependent on labour contractors and are powerless compared to local workforce. Their vulnerability and low wages may be of short-term advantage to the industry, but in the long run they fail to participate in India’s growth story by earning more and consuming more. That is why it is often argued that rural-urban migration can lead to prosperity only when a ‘pull factor’ of better paid work replaces the push-factor of rural poverty.    

Between 1991 and 2001, as many as 73 million rural people have migrated (displaced from their place of birth) to elsewhere. But the majority of these people (53 million) moved to other villages and less than a third (20 million) to urban areas and mostly in search of jobs. The number of seasonal or cyclic migration is around 2 crore but some experts believe that the actual number could be ten times the official figure.  


Rural Expert

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