Free movement is a fundamental right of the citizens of India and internal movements are not restricted. The Constitution states: “All citizens shall have the right (...) to move freely throughout the territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India
- Article 19(1) (d) and Article 19(1) (e), Part III, Fundamental Rights, The Constitution of India, 1950.
Approximately three out of every ten Indians are internal migrants! Despite this, 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.
National Sample Survey Office (2007–08) states that around 28.5 per cent of the 1.2 billion people in India are internal migrants (Census 2011). According to the UNDP Human Development Report (2009), the number of internal migrants (740 million) is nearly four times the number of international migrants (214 million).
As per NSSO (2007-08), around 80 per cent of total internal migrants are women. 91.3 per cent of women in rural areas and 60.8 per cent of women in urban areas cite marriage to be the most prominent reason for migration. However, researchers believe that the macro data reports do not capture the complete picture and miss the actual reasons for migration. About 30 per cent of internal migrants in India belong to the youth category (15-29 years age group).
Urbanization and Migration:
India’s urban population has increased from about 286 million in 2001 to 377 million in 2011, and is expected to increase to 600 million by 2030. This increase migration to urban areas is largely due to an increase in female migration (38.2 %in 199341.8 % in 1999-2000 45.6 % in 2007-08). The main reason driving this migration is expectations of “better employment opportunities.”
The report on Social Inclusion of Internal Migrants in India, UNESCO (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002237/223702e.pdf) highlights two developments in the evolution of urban centres that absorb the increasing migrant population.
Firstly, influx of people from varied regions poses a socio-economic and environmental challenge to cities. The outcomes are growth of second tier cities rapid urbanisation and the greater challenge to absorb the migrant population that eventually translates into increased poverty and inequality levels.
Secondly, focus of policy making changes from “welfarism to rights based approach” with the goal to ensure that basic services are accessible to all.
The loose definition of migration and the largely ignored concerns that it poses renders the design and delivery of their social inclusion undefined and hence, ineffective.
Internal Migration: Myths and Realities
Despite its contribution, internal migration still suffers from several ill conceived notions. Highlighted below are some myths related to internal migrants that are countered with important realities:
- Myth: Burden on destination cities vs. Reality: Forms cheap labor and thereby contributes to GDP
- Myth Steal local jobs vs.Reality: Migrants typically provide essential services which the locals might not want to engage in
- Myth: Migration can be stopped vs. Reality: Migration and urbanisation are integral part of economic and social development.
- Myth: Inhospitable cities are best deterrents to internal migration vs. Reality: Harsh cities merely increase risks and costs of migration, reducing its development potential
- Myth: Women migrate only for marriage vs. Reality: Women's labour migration and economic contribution
10 Key Areas for Inclusion of Internal Migrants
1. REGISTRATION AND IDENTITY
Migrants lack documentary proof of identity and local residence due to which they are excluded from access to legal rights, public services and social protection programmes (subsidised food, housing and banking services). In response to this, the Unique Identification (Aadhar) programme was created to combat the issue of registration.
2. POLITICAL AND CIVIC INCLUSION
A report on Political Inclusion of Seasonal Migrant Workers in India: Perceptions, Realities and Challenges reveals that many migrants are unable to exercise their franchise because they have to travel in search of work and some return to their villages to exercise their franchise, because of this, they exercise limited political agency.
The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 – could ensure a mechanism of accountability of public authorities. It would enable a citizen to file a complaint related to non-functioning of public authorities, violation of a law, policy or scheme or any grievance related to citizens charters, and offending officers could be penalized.
3. LABOUR MARKET INCLUSION
Migrants are mostly employed in the informal economy, devoid of social security and fair market, often working as construction workers, agricultural labourers, vendors, etc. There are few Central Labour Laws for regulating conditions of work, but they remain undelivered.
4. LEGAL AID AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION
As migrants are predominantly engaged in the informal sector, migrants have no protection under labour laws. Government’s safety measures remain unimplemented, and minimum wages are not delivered.
Poor literacy levels and no awareness act as an impediment in claiming rights and entitlements.
5. INCLUSION OF WOMEN MIGRANTS
The current discourse on migration has failed to adequately address gender-specific migration experiences. The design of the Census and NSSO data surveys should be amended to better capture the actual reasons of migration. Women migrants, especially those in lower-end informal sector occupations, remain invisible and discriminated against in the workforce.
6. INCLUSION THROUGH ACCESS TO FOOD
In order to access subsidised grain and other supplies under the PDS scheme, beneficiaries must present a ration card that is given to them at their usual place of residence and is not transferrable. Such clauses imply that migrants are unable to access the PDS system at destination.
The National Food Security Bill 2011 passed this year aims to guarantee food and nutritional security in India, recognized that: “The migrants and their families shall be able to claim their entitlements under this Act, at the place where they currently reside.”
7. INCLUSION THROUGH HOUSING
Migrants face difficulties in accessing housing and other basic amenities. They often live in urban slums, facing constant threats of displacement and eviction from government officials. Shelter solutions show little appreciation for the needs of seasonal migrants.
- Affordable rental housing to affordable private housing, with an eventual policy shift towards provision of de facto residential rights and housing
- In-situ upgradation of existing slum dwellings could be a first step towards ensuring basic services for migrants living in slums
- Employers and contractors also need to play a role in securing shelter for migrant workers, and experiments with dormitory accommodation provided by employers (as undertaken in China0
8. EDUCATIONAL INCLUSION
Seasonal migrants often take their children along when they migrate, which negatively impacts their regular schooling. This is one of the reasons for high dropout rates in schools in many states. This further breeds inter-generational transmission of poverty.
Despite the Child Labour (Prohibitions & Regulation) Act, 1986, children work for long hours as unregistered workers often in harmful industries on piece rate basis
- The multiplication of seasonal hostels to promote the retention of children in schools in source areas
- The establishment of worksite schools at the destination with systems to transfer enrolment, attendance at and credits to formal schools, and bridge courses and remedial education for return migrant children
- Establishing peripatetic educational volunteers who can move with the migrating families, initiating strategies for tracking children by issuing migratory cards, and making the school calendar flexible to accommodate migrant children, including in local government schools in both rural and urban areas,
9. PUBLIC HEALTH INCLUSION
Migrants are exposed to health risks including HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, and occupational health hazards such as respiratory problems, lung dseases, allergies, kidney and malnutrition.
10. FINANCIAL INCLUSION
Migrants are unable to access banking facilities since they do not have the necessary documentation to fulfil the Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements of banks, including proof of identity and proof of address. Suggestions
- Linking migrants to branchless banking and business correspondents along with incorporating flexibility in bank procedures
- Target banking services in geographical areas with high out-migration
Prepared by Ashwin Varghese and Mahima Malik