A Migration Policy Framework for India

Migration from one place to another place is one of the salient features of human settlements from the early centuries. In fact, the early communities of human beings often moved from one place to another constantly in search of food, shelter, and favourable weather conditions. However, as human beings invented techniques and methods of farming and agriculture, it became easier for them to settle down in a permanent spot forever and create enough food and resources that could help them in sustaining themselves. While human settlements merging from the advent of agriculture resulted in the formation of early human settlements and civilizations, there was, however, a movement of people from one spot to another happening periodically. For instance, permanent settlements got shifted over the years owing to the weather conditions, wars, threats from natural calamities etc. Even after the Industrial Revolution of 18th century human migration kept on continuing for various reasons. Even in the 21st century, human beings keep migrating from one place to another. However, the reasons that force human beings to migrate in 21st century is different from the reasons that prompted them to migrate in the early days of ancient civilizations.

India is home to world’s second largest population and for the same reason, there are several demographic problems that the nation faces, which must be addressed with sound policy frameworks. One such problem that often go unnoticed and unaddressed is the issues of internal migration within the country. India lacks a sound policy framework to regulate the internal migration and also ensuring the welfare of the migrants.

Internal migration can be defined as the movement of people within the geographic limits of a given country oven to several reasons ranging from the job opportunities to the search for better living standards. There are several reasons why an internal migration happens. Broadly, these reasons are categorised into push and pull factors. Push factors are those factors which occurs at the point of origin of the migrant population which forces the migrant population to move out of their native land into a foreign location. Thus, it is a force that pushes the people out of their homeland and move to another space so that they could get away from the particular reason. Pull factor on the other hand are the factors that emerge at the destination, which encourages the migrant population to leave their native location as they get attracted by these pull factors. In the case of India, a large scale migration within the country’s geographic limit happens due to the push factors. For instance, a large number of rural agricultural workers and labour force migrate to the urban sector due to the push factor of agrarian crisis. Thus, it is the agrarian crisis and the distress in the rural areas that forces the agricultural labour forces to move out of the rural space into the urban space, looking for better living standards and job opportunities.

Internal migration has its own benefits. The data over the years shows that internal migration has helped many individuals who were earlier unemployed in the rural space to find a job opportunity in the urban localities. This would also mean that when search unemployed rural labour force is employed in the urban space, there is a flow of income from the urban space to the rural areas and rural households, which enables the rural households to have a better standard of living. Migration also ensures that the urban space can find additional supply of labour unions which often comes at cheaper rates than it was before. This would eventually then decreases the cost of production associated with the activities in the urban spaces, leading to or reduction in the overall prices of such goods and commodities.

It is an evident phenomenon that many individuals have improved their living standards and income levels by migrating from rural spaces to urban localities. However, this beautiful picture doesn’t complete the puzzle of urban migration. For instance, while the talented and skilled labour force from the rural localities find jobs in the urban space there is also a large chunk of migrant work force who often find it difficult to find a job in an urban locality. This would then mean that there are also a lot of people who find it too difficult to find a job or to get employed even after migrating from the rural area to the urban sector. In such cases, the individuals add to the demographic pressure of the urban spaces, which is already under severe pressure. This would also create several others socio-economic, political and health issues in the urban localities.

Similarly, the migrant labour force often experiences search costs of finding a new job, the time cost of waiting for an employment opportunity as well as the moral hazard of the possibility of getting cheated by the urban employer. Such issues of fun create problems for both the rural migrants as well as the urban economy. The rise in the migration internally also leads to the phenomenon of the rise of informal economy in the recent past. Most of the rural migrants often land up in the jobs that are offered by the informal sector in the urban spaces. One problem with urban informal sector is that it is largely unregulated and is outside the purview of the government regulations.

Thus, the government should create a broader policy framework which can address all such issues faced by the internal migrants in the country. This is because of the fact that migrants open face problems which are multi-dimensional in nature. Thus, a sound government policy would mean that it addresses the issues ranging from housing to health, from education to training, from ensuring minimum wages to better conditions at work. As the economy is growing at a spontaneous rate each year, there is no doubt that the internal migration will grow in the coming years. The government should have a proper policy framework in place to ensure that these migrants are provided with a safe and secure environment in their destination.

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