Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Internal Migration and Human Rights in India

India being large by geographic space and given the natural instinct of mankind to move, internal migration or movement of people from one corner to another is nothing new and nothing to worry about unless we disturb it. People on the move may also be rooted, that is, live permanently in one region understood as a village or a sub-urban area or a town. There may be seasonal migration as there may be hopping one; some form may not be readily visible also. Some may move out alone and some may move out with family. This moving out may be self-chosen or may be imposed on them – the former may be called voluntary and the latter under compulsion.

My purpose here is not to elaborate on the idea of internal migration in India. The purpose for the time being is very precise. Do the migrants enjoy rights at the destination? Based on my recent study of fifty rickshaw pullers in the city of Allahabad I observed that most of them would like to live a human life by first a material indicator, namely, ‘roti’ (food). Their freedom was expressed by ‘roti-roji’ (food-cum-job). Most of them did not bother about their right to vote – vaguely they responded that they had voting rights there where they migrated from – mostly from within the state of Uttar Pradesh and also from adjoin state Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. It will be too far to opine that they were politically conscious – most of them used to be guided by the local polity in power or by the local moneylender-cum-dabang.

Most of these rickshaw pullers had to be engaged in multiple occupations every year for two basic reasons, one absence of cultivable land in their root-rural region and absence of institutionally acceptable level of education.

Such people are believed to constitute the vote bank in major regions of India. Suppose for the sake of simplicity, temporary voter identity cards are issued for the migrant rickshaw pullers in cities or in general in urban areas authorized by the Election Commission. What does it lead to? The migrants get politically or otherwise empowered? My response is, no. With temporary voting rights at the destination, they remain as disempowered as they were at their root rural society. Polity may utilize them as and when needed.

Bhaskar Majumdar

Bhaskar Majumdar

Bhaskar Majumder is at present Professor of Economics in G.B. Pant Social Science Institute. Previously he served as Professor and Head of the Centre for Development Studies, Central University of Bihar, Patna. He got his Graduation, Master's Degree, M. Phil., Ph.D., all in Economics, from the University of Calcutta. He is engaged in teaching and research for more the past 39 years in Calcutta, Allahabad and Patna in a number of Institute and Universities.
Professor Majumder has written and published so far nine books on social sector. He has authored so far sixty nine research papers in around twenty referred journals. In addition, he has contributed thirty chapters in books on social sciences, apart from several review articles for journals and magazines, plus publications in national and international Conference proceedings. He has so far completed 23 research projects sponsored and supported by World Bank, Ministry of Rural Development (GoI), Planning Commission, ICSSR (GoI), Industries including NTPC and Tata Chemicals. Many students got D.Phil. from the University of Allahabad under his supervision.
Bhaskar Majumdar

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