Migrants and their significance in India

  • IASbaba
  • April 23, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 1 & 2:

  • Social empowerment
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

Migrants and their significance in India

Context: The COVID-19 crisis has, for the first time, brought migration & their exodus (mass migration) to the centre stage of public health and disaster response in India. 

 Changing Nature of Mass Migration 

  • In the past, a mass migration would take place because of a disaster such as a famine, drought, flood, or regional conflict.  
  • It would be from the area where such a calamity was unfolding. 
  • Though, such types of mass migration continue, now there are new narratives of it caused by demonetisation, violence against migrants, and lockdown. 
  • The decisive role played by the state or the lack of it, is causing such migration 

Significance of Migrant Workers in public health and political economy 

1. The numbers involved are very high 

  • For instance: Bihar which has a population of about 123 million has an estimated inter-state migrant population of 3 million 

 2. India’s economy, particularly of the growth centres, depends on the services of migrant workers.  For Instance:  

  • Agricultural activities during harvest season 
  • Sectors such as construction, garment manufacturing and mining  

3. Economic shock to home States (Ex. UP, Bihar) when migrants return (from Delhi, Mumbai), as there are no compensatory sources of livelihood to be offered 

  • This will impact nutrition, health, education of dependents and the well-being of the older population. 

 4. In the case of epidemics, exodus of seasonal migrants creates danger of the spread of the disease in rural areas 

5. Loss of Livelihoods 

  • Working from home or getting paid leave is largely a middle-class phenomenon 
  • Daily-wage earners do not have the capacity to stay at a destination during lockdown thus causing their exodus 

 6. Low Quality of Life 

  • Due to lack of sanitation, hygiene, safe drinking water, health services, social security measures, and affordable housing 

 7. Vulnerable to infection 

  • The pathetic living conditions of migrants in slum-like colonies, where people simply cannot practise social distancing, are breeding grounds of communicable diseases 

Though, government announced ₹1.7 Lakh crore relief package, there are reasons to believe that it will not benefit seasonal migrants, reasons being 

  • Those migrants who are not ration cardholders in the cities where they are stationed will not benefit from additional free foodgrains under the PDS.  
  • They cannot avail of increased MGNREGA wages until they go back home.  
  • As many seasonal migrants are landless they will not benefit from PM-KISAN component of the package 
  • They will not get benefits under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board because of low registration 


  • The states need to address immediate distress conditions and simultaneously initiate long-term structural changes in the policy towards migrants  

Connecting the dots :

  • Article 19(1)(d) of Indian Constitution 
  • One Nation- One Ration Card

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