Internal Migration in India

  • IASbaba
  • February 16, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
Print Friendly, PDF & Email



  • GS-1: Indian Society, Urbanisation and problems
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment; Government Budgeting

Internal Migration in India

Context: The distress migration of internal migrants during the lockdown times was most enduring memory of that period that even moved Supreme Court to take cognisance of their plight.

Eleven months since the March 2020 lockdowns, the situation is considerably different.

India’s Internal Migration

  • Huge Numbers: India has an estimated 600 million migrants. In other words, roughly half of India is living in a place where it wasn’t born.
  • Intra-State Migration: An estimated 400 million Indians “migrate” within the district they live in. The next 140 million migrate from one district to another but within the same state.
  • Inter-State Migration: And only about 60 million — that is, just 10% of all internal migrants — move from one state to another.
  • Rural Migration: The most dominant form of migration is from rural to rural areas. Only about 20% of the total migration (600 million) is from rural to urban areas.
  • Urban Migration: 20% of the total migration is from one urban area to another urban area. As such, urban migration (rural to urban as well as urban to urban) accounts for 40% of the total migration.
  • Potential for increase in future: As India adopts a strategy of rapid urbanisation — for example, by building so-called smart cities and essentially using cities as centres of economic growth — levels of internal migration will increase further.
  • COVID-19 induced Shock: It is estimated that close to 60 million moved back to their “source” rural areas in the wake of pandemic-induced lockdowns. That number is roughly six-times the official estimates. That estimate also gives a measure of the sense of labour shock that India’s economy faced as migrants moved back.

The concern of “vulnerable circular migrants”

  • 200 million were broadly affected by the Covid disruption.
  • The worst-hit were “vulnerable circular migrants”. These are people who are “vulnerable” because of their weak position in the job market and “circular” migrants because even though they work in urban settings, they continue to have a foothold in the rural areas.
  • Such migrants work in construction sites or small factories or as rickshaw pullers in the city but when such employment avenues dwindle, they go back to their rural setting
  • They constitute 75% of the informal economy outside agriculture — most shocks, be it demonetisation or GST or the pandemic disruption, tend to rob them of their livelihood.


  • India’s proportion of internal migrants (as a percentage of the overall population) is much lower than some of the comparable countries such as Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil — all have much higher urbanisation ratios, which is a proxy for migration level.
  • In-depth understanding of labour class is needed to avoid the repeat of distress witnessed during COVID-19 lockdown period.

Connecting the dots

  • New Version of Labour Codes: click here

For a dedicated peer group, Motivation & Quick updates, Join our official telegram channel – https://t.me/IASbabaOfficialAccount

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel HERE to watch Explainer Videos, Strategy Sessions, Toppers Talks & many more…

Search now.....

Sign Up To Receive Regular Updates