Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Giving a voice to the migrant: The question of inclusion

After the stupendous success of the NDA coalition, specifically the BJP in the just concluded general elections, we’ve got down to discuss and analyze the reasons behind this comeback, not witnessed in the largest democracy of the world since 1984. The BJP won the general elections, with 282 seats on its own. The alliance has 336 seats in the lower house of the Parliament. This is the highest number of seats won by any party on its own since the 1984 general elections, when the Congress had won a landslide victory.  The victory has become a subject of popular debate-with intellectual minds giving deeper insights. How one state’s model of growth and development has become the illustrious example for others is a definite case in point. Arguments, as the case always, have been on both sides. However, one fact that comes to the fore is that common man is the means and end of this process-the process of democratic inclusion and mobilization of the electorate reflected in the record turnout.

The nation has been fed on regular diet of aspiration and hopes, selling them the glimpses of a better governed nation. People even from the lowest strata of society have high expectations from the present government. Several post-election surveys on ground tell that word of mouth publicity worked wonders in the hinterlands. It has been a trend during election season to witness long distance trains cramped with labourers returning to their home state to take part in the voting process. Well this time, they also carried stories of good governance and economic well being at their place of work in Gujarat. This had a positive externality across villages, where villagers took up these tales as anecdotes further strengthening the potential electoral base for current government.  On the other hand, we have the detractors who point to the fallacy of the analysis by pointing to the grim working conditions for migrant workers in Gujarat, the difficulty in obtaining work as a casual labour and unforgiving livelihood conditions due to low wages, both in rural and urban areas. Cases have been cited where working conditions are deplorable and a cause of health hazards among the migrant workers.

Both the sides are truthful, but devoid of facts. Opinions need to be supplemented with data in order to substantiate the argument. In this case, data on migration will provide the necessary factual details. Using the National Sample Survey (NSS) data reports on migration (NSS 64th round 2007-08), the total number of internal migrants stood at 326 million. Over the years, there has been an increase in the volume rural-urban and urban-urban migration stream reflecting that migration is a suitable economic decision for the higher income classes. For the lower classes, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Others, migration is more a result of distressed conditions in their home state. For them, migration is means of escaping poverty and hunger like situations.  In India, nearly 29 per cent of the persons are migrants with significant rural-urban and male-female differentials. Migration rate was found to be lowest for bottom MPCE decile class in both rural and urban areas and there is an increasing trend in rate of migration with the increase in level of living, with the migration rate attaining peak in top decile class.  Migration of households has been largely confined within the states: 78 percent of the migrant households in rural areas and 72 per cent of the migrant households in the urban areas had last usual place of residence (UPR) within their respective state.

In the case of Gujarat, the total number of in-migrants, according to Census 2001 data, stood at 36.14 million. Due to unavailability of NSSO reports, this analysis relies on Census data. However, using NSS data will lead to better understanding of the trends. Out of the total figure, approximately 94 per cent are intra-state migrants. Intra-state movement is classified as either movement within the same district or movement to other district of the state. In case of shorter length of migration, the figure for female is higher as compared to males. The next origin state for migrants to Gujarat is Maharashtra which accounts 1.18 per cent. Uttar Pradesh with 1.23 per cent of the total migrants comes next. It is then followed by Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. It is thus evident that majority of the migrant population are intra-state migrants. Even if we discount that fact, the major state of origin for migrants stands out to be Maharashtra. This comes as no surprise since both the states have a rich history of labour sharing.  In the erstwhile state of Saurashtra, labourers use to migrate for short durations during the lean periods of agriculture. The share of U.P migrants is still lower as evident from the data. This immediately raises the question. Out of the total 19 million migrants from U.P (Census 2001), the major destination regions were Delhi (including the National Capital Territory regions) and Maharashtra. Gujarat accounted for 2.7 per cent of the total migrants. Pull factors such as job opportunity in an urban location, better livelihood opportunities and established migrant network are the noticeable reasons for a prospective migrant to decide whether to migrate. The Gujarat model of development undoubtedly has achieved remarkable growth rate and ushered in prosperity for its citizens. But the model is subject to scrutiny when it comes to inclusion. Have we been able to create an environment of inclusiveness, enabling participation of the people, in this case the migrant labour, in the decision making process? Has our development given due representation to the every section of the society for which it is meant, or it has come at the cost of planned seclusion and deprivation.

Aritra Chakrabarty

Aritra Chakrabarty

Anchor, SHRAM (Till Dec 31st, 2014)

As a social researcher, I believe in knowledge-based policy action. With a postgraduate degree in Development Studies, I've been associated with social issues in my professional space. As a part of SHRAMIC initiative, was involved with data creation, sourcing of resources that will become the knowledge bank of this project.
Aritra Chakrabarty

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