Mobile Indians

India is internally migrating on a scale never before seen in its history.

The consequences of this large population shift have  not been properly studied, with the benefits not being fully realised and problems hardly addressed. According to a Unesco report based on the 2001 census about 30 per cent of the population consists of migrants. The figure must be higher now as it could be safely assumed that the process has only gained strength in subsequent years. This movement of people has been mainly for economic reasons. There is higher mobility of people from less developed states like UP, Bihar and Chhattisgarh to more developed regions like the South and states like Maharashtra and Punjab. Many people leave their home terrains to escape from social oppression.  In the case of young people the search for educational and job opportunities are important factors.

Most of the migration is from villages to cities as a result of growing  industrialisation and urbanisation. It helps to increase the incomes and productivity of people and also the living standards of people back home who are dependent on the migrants. According to the Unesco report 10 per cent of the country’s GDP comes from migrants. Cities like Mumbai and Bangalore are examples of the dynamism and prosperity created by the migration of people. Smaller cities and towns have also started attracting people not just from surrounding areas but from farther places. The process has given rise to adverse reactions also, as has been seen from the Shiv Sena’s campaigns against outsiders. But the narrow  politics based on  sentiments, fear and suspicion is retrograde, because movements  and interactions of people basically strengthen nationhood and cosmopolitanism.

The economic, social and political aspects of migration need to be given more attention to. Many of the migrants are vulnerable and are victims of exploitation. Most of them are not entitled to benefits like subsidised food and access to services like health and education. Legal measures like changes in the inter-state workmen act and more efficient administrative steps are needed to protect their rights and interests.

 The report has noted that one-third of the citizens are unable to vote in the elections because they are away from home and recommended steps to give them voting rights.  Improving the migrant situation in all aspects can only strengthen the country. 

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