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The document entitled “Social Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India” (2013) acts as an overview of existing innovative practices that increase the inclusion of internal migrants in society and act as a living document that would inspire and assist professionals and governments officials in their attempts to facilitate the social inclusion of migrants in India. Through this publication, UNESCO wishes to increase visibility and recognition of the internal migration phenomenon in India, disseminate evidence based experiences and practices, and provoke a paradigm shift in the perception and portrayal of migrants by addressing myths and misconceptions and creating awareness on the benefits of migrants’ inclusion in society.

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

•   The report focuses on ten key areas for a better social inclusion of migrants: Registration and Identity; Political and Civic Inclusion; Labour Market Inclusion; Legal Aid and Dispute Resolution; Inclusion of Women Migrants; Inclusion through Access to Food; Inclusion through Housing; Educational Inclusion; Public Health Inclusion and Financial Inclusion.

Magnitude of Internal Migration

•    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 per cent of the total population. Internal migrants, of which 70.7 per cent are women, are excluded from the economic, cultural, social and political life of society and are often treated as second-class citizens.

•    Marriage is given by women respondents as the most prominent reason for migrating: cited by 91.3 per cent of women in rural areas and 60.8 per cent of women in urban areas (NSSO 2007–08). Women’s migration for employment also remains under-reported due to cultural factors, which emphasize social rather than economic roles for women (Shanti, 2006), and contribute towards women becoming invisible economic actors of society.

•    About 30 per cent of internal migrants in India belong to the youth category in the 15-29 years age group (Rajan, 2013; Census, 2001). Child migrants are estimated at approximately 15 million (Daniel, 2011; Smita, 2011). Furthermore, several studies have pointed out that migration is not always permanent and seasonal and circular migration is widespread, especially among the socio-economically deprived groups, such as the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Castes (OBCs), who are asset-poor and face resource and livelihood deficits (Deshingkar and Akter, 2009).

•    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.

•    Migration in India is primarily of two types: (a) Long-term migration, resulting in the relocation of an individual or household and (b) Short-term or seasonal/circular migration, involving back and forth movement between a source and destination. Estimates of short-term migrants vary from 15 million (NSSO 2007–2008) to 100 million (Deshingkar and Akter, 2009). Yet, macro surveys such as the Census fail to adequately capture flows of short-term migrants and do not record secondary reasons for migration.

•    Internal migrants constitute about one-third of India’s urban population, and this proportion has been increasing: from 31.6 per cent in 1983 to 33 per cent in 1999-2000, and to 35 percent in 2007-08 (NSSO 2007-08). The increase in the migration rate to urban areas has primarily occurred due to an increase in migration rate for females, which has been rising from 38.2 percent in 1993 to 41.8 per cent in 1999-2000 to 45.6 per cent in 2007-08.

•    Male migration rate in urban areas has remained constant over this period (between 26 and 27 per cent), but employment-related reasons for migration of males increased from 42 per cent in 1993 to 52 per cent in 1999-2000 to 56 per cent in 2007-08.

•    The rising contribution of cities to India’s GDP would not be possible without migration and migrant workers. Some of the important sectors in which migrants work include: construction, brick kiln, salt pans, carpet and embroidery, commercial and plantation agriculture and variety of jobs in urban informal sectors such as vendors, hawkers, rickshaw puller, daily wage workers and domestic work (Bhagat, 2012).

Contribution of migrants to the economy

•    An independent study examining the economic contribution of circular migrants* based on major migrant employing sectors in India revealed that they contribute 10 per cent to the national GDP (Deshingkar and Akter, 2009).

•    According to Tumbe (2011), estimates of the domestic remittance market were roughly USD 10 billion in 2007-08. With rising incomes, migrant remittances can encourage investment in human capital formation, particularly increased expenditure on health, and also to some extent education (Deshingkar and Sandi, 2012).

Situation of women migrants

•    Women migrants face double discrimination, encountering difficulties peculiar to migrants, coupled with their specific vulnerability as victims of gender-based violence, and physical, sexual or psychological abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

•    Women migrant workers' lack of education, experience and skills leaves them vulnerable to exploitation from illegal placement agencies and touts.

•    Estimates indicate that the number of domestic workers in India vary from 4.75 million (NSS 2004-05) to 6.4 million (Census 2001) (MoLE, 2011).

•    The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector has estimated that out of four million domestic workers, 92 per cent are women, girls and children, and 20 per cent are under 14 years of age. However, other sources suggest that these figures are underestimated and that the number of domestic workers in the country could be much higher. The sector is said to have grown by 222 percent since 1999-2000 and is the largest sector of female employment in urban India, involving approximately 3 million women (MoLE, 2011).

•    NSSO data (2007-08) indicates that nearly 60 per cent of female migrants in rural areas were self-employed and 37 per cent were casual workers, whereas in urban areas, 43.7 per cent of women migrants were self-employed and 37 per cent were engaged in regular jobs (Srivastava, 2012).

Rights of migrants

•    The constraints faced by migrants are many-lack of formal residency rights; lack of identity proof; lack of political representation; inadequate housing; low-paid, insecure or hazardous work; extreme vulnerability of women and children to trafficking and sex exploitation; exclusion from state-provided services such as health and education and discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, class or gender.

•    Most internal migrants are denied basic rights. Despite the fact that approximately three out of every ten Indians are internal migrants, internal migration has been accorded very low priority by the government, and existing policies of the Indian state have failed in providing legal or social protection to this vulnerable group. This can be attributed in part to a serious data gap on the extent, nature and magnitude of internal migration.

•    In the absence of proofs of identity and residence, internal migrants are unable to claim social protection entitlements and remain excluded from government sponsored schemes and programmes. Children face disruption of regular schooling, adversely affecting their human capital formation and contributing to the inter-generational transmission of poverty.

•    Internal migrants suffer from a high HIV burden (3.6 per cent), which is ten times the HIV prevalence among the general population (NACO, 2010). Their vulnerability has been attributed to personal isolation, enhanced loneliness and sexual risk taking, lack of HIV awareness and of social support networks at both source and destination (Borhade, 2012). In addition to the exclusion they face from the local community at destinations due to their ethnicity, linguistic differences, religious beliefs and socio-economic conditions, migrants living with HIV and AIDS face double discrimination and stigmatisation. Migrant women living with HIV suffer the most from multiple and intersectional vulnerabilities (IOM, 2009).

•    According to a study, Political Inclusion of Seasonal Migrant Workers in India: Perceptions, Realities and Challenges (Sharma et al, 2010), nearly 60 percent of respondents reported having missed voting in elections at least once because they were away from home in search of work. Additionally, 54 per cent of respondents claimed that they had returned to their home villages during elections with the intention of voting, of which 74 per cent returned specifically for elections of the panchayat (village level institution of local self-government).

•    Migrants do the dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs which the locals do not want to do. It is "different from stealing jobs. By not accepting migrants or providing facilities to them, governments are merely increasing the risk and costs of migration and reducing its development potential.

Note: * The process of “circular migration” implies circularity, that is, a relatively open form of (cross-border) mobility. Such migration might involve seasonal stays or temporary work patterns.

Rural Expert

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