Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Migration is a new age development challenge: Amrita Sharma (Aajeevika Bureau)

I have realized that in our villages, the youth are increasing disenchanted with farming occupation and are heading towards the city in pursuit of a better life. The stories of their search for a better future, however, do not always end well.

This study during which I was trying to look at the future of Indian agriculture, through the lenses of rural youth, opened up a new area, wanting to be heard in development debate. This study took me to several villages across India, interviewing the youth below the age of 35. Every individual rebuked at the idea of farming as an occupation. Every young person wanted to migrate to city on the probability of having a better alternative.

Many had sordid tales to share – how they were cheated by the middlemen duping them  of thousands of rupees on a promise of a job; how accidents at work left them jobless and without compensation, no savings and without hope; how it meant to live on streets, with no access to sanitation and a dignified living.  Still, their peers preferred the city over the villages, for economic reasons and sometimes to better their prospects in the marriage market.

There are millions of them stuck in transit between the rural and the urban. The agrarian demography was undergoing a significant change, with more and more men opting for migration as a livelihood strategy and women donning greater roles in the farms and public spaces, almost leading to neo-feminization of agriculture. And for people like us, engaged in public policy and developmental discourses, this phenomenon was a complete black hole. Some of us weren’t aware of this transition and several chose to ignore, rather working towards making people stay in the villages – “checking migration” as the old development adage went. We did not understand the trend, leave alone addressing the serious policy challenges it offered.

My search for a solution brought me to Aajeevika Bureau, a non-government initiative in Udaipur, Rajasthan; the first organization in India to institutionalize services for the poor migrants. It focused on the vulnerable migrant groups and designed a model that worked both at the source (rural) and the destination (urban) ends. It ran walk-in resource centres for the workers and offered a wide range of services and solutions to address problems related to identity verification, absence of skills, legal work disputes, lack of social security and lack of voice. Since the last five years of my association, I have observed and studied this phenomenon closely. Travels across villages gave me an exposure to a wide variety of migration contexts through stories that both fascinate and aggrieve. Among the millions, there are a few who are able to carve a good living and future for themselves. The majority languish for lack of job security, living wages, social protection and human living conditions in the informal, unregulated labour markets. They remain outside the purview of state welfare both in the rural and the urban areas.

In the last five-ten years the attention to internal migration has grown and there are some CSOs, international institutions and donors that have started work on it. However, the attention of the public policy and the government is still thin. Given the large numbers (approximately 100 m) the task of providing them decent work and a human treatment cannot be served by us alone. The government needs to come in; and come in with a lot of will and power to tackle this new-age development challenge.

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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One Response to “Migration is a new age development challenge: Amrita Sharma (Aajeevika Bureau)”

  1. Mukta Naik says:

    Great post, Amrita! No wonder we have a hard time seeing patterns in this landscape of complex and layered narratives related to youth and migration! It isn’t just the government though, academics and not for profits also often fail to recognize the ‘migration’ component in the work they do. For example, the urban poor conveniently turn into migrants when they are accused of crime, but they are citizens when they are called upon to vote! Part of the challenge is a broad and nuanced understanding of who is a migrant, a void we need to fill.

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