Topics covered:



Ø Introduction

Ø Streams of Migration

Ø Spatial Variation in Migration

Ø Causes of Migration

Ø Consequences of Migration

Ø International migration: Diaspora



  • The Economic Survey of India 2017 estimates that the magnitude of inter-state migration in India was close to 9 million annually between 2011 and 2016
  • The 2001 census estimated the total number of internal migrants at 314 million based on place of last residence, representing nearly 30% of the total population. According to the 2011 Census, the number of internal migrants rose to 453.6 million.
  • According to the International Migrant Stock 2019report (released by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), India with 5 million international migrants has emerged as the top source of international migrants, constituting 6.4% of world’s total migrant population.

Some basic terms:

Human Migration: It is the movement by people from one place to another with the intention of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location (within or outside the home country). Such people are called migrants.
Immigration: Immigration is coming to a foreign country with the intention of permanently living there.
Emigration: Emigration is leaving a resident country with the intent to settle elsewhere.
Refugees: These are the people who have been forced to flee their resident country because of war, violence or persecution. Such people are protected by international law, specifically the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Enroute: Migrants in between origin and destination are known as en route.
Return Migration: When groups of people move back to where they came from.
Seasonal Migration: When people move with each season (e.g. farm workers following crop harvests or working in cities off-season).
World Migration Report: It is International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) flagship publication that features the latest trends in international migration, discusses emerging policy issues and provides regional recent developments in Africa, America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania.
Migration stream and counter-stream: A number of migrants sharing a common origin and destination form a migration stream. For every stream there is a reverse counter-stream.
International Organization for Migration (IOM): IOM is a leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. It was established in 1951 and has its head office at Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland.
Diaspora Diaspora is commonly understood to include Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), of which PIO and OCI card holders were merged under one category – OCI – in 2015.



Streams of Migration:

  • Four streams are identified:

(a) rural to rural (R-R);

(b) rural to urban (R-U);

(c) urban to urban (U-U); and

(d) urban to rural (U-R)


  • According to census 2011:
    • Rural to Urban migration was 20.5 million
    • Rural to Rural migration was 53.3 million.
    • Urban to Urban migration was 14.3 million
    • Urban to rural was 6.2 million
    • Apart from these streams of internal migration, India also experiences immigration from and emigration to the neighboring countries.
    • Indian Census 2011 has recorded that more than 5 million persons have migrated to India from other



Spatial Variation in Migration

  • The cities of Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata are the largest destinations for internal migrants in India
  • Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the biggest source states, followed closely by Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Rajasthan.
  • The major destination states are Maharashtra, UP, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.


  • Migration
    1. Internal migration
    2. External migration

Internal migration

  • The number of internal migrants in Indiawas 450 million as per the most recent 2011 census. This is an increase of 45% over the 309 million recorded in 2001. Internal migrants as a percentage of population increased from 30% in 2001 to 37% in 2011.
  • When a person is enumerated in the census at a different place than his / her place of birth, she/he is considered a migrant.
  • Female Migration: Out of the total internal migrants, 7 percent are women (Census of India 2001) and marriage is one of the major reasons for female migration in both the rural and urban areas.
  • Male Migration: Migration for employment-related reasons is one of the prominent reasons for male migration in both rural and urban areas.


Types of internal migration in India:

  • Long term Migration, resulting in the relocation of an individual or household.
  • Short term Migration, involving back and forth movement between a source and destination.
  • Female Migration: Out of the total internal migrants, 7 percent are women (Census of India 2001) and marriage is one of the major reasons for female migration in both the rural and urban areas.
  • Male Migration: Migration for employment-related reasons is one of the prominent reasons for male migration in both rural and urban areas.

Causes of Internal Migration:

  • Urbanization: Rural-urban migration is a major characteristic of urban transition in countries.
  • The rates of urbanization influence rural-urban wage differences.
  • An increase in the demand for labour in urban areas and better wages increase migration.
  • The pull factors of better job facilities, good salary, and more income, medical and educational facilities are attracting the rural people to move to the cities.
  • The push factors of no job facilities, low salary, less income, drought, less medical and education compel people towards cities.
  • Marriage: marriage is an important social factor for migration. As observed by Census 2001, in case of intra-state migrant’s majority of the migration is from one rural area to another, due to marriage in case of females.
  • Employment:
  • The prime reason for migration from rural to urban areas and urban to urban areas is search for better employment in industries, trade, transport and services.
  • People seasonally migrate for employment in different areas and different industries. For Example, significant numbers of people from drought-prone regions—e.g. from areas of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra—migrate seasonally to work in brickmaking, construction, tile factories, and agricultural work. Such migration is of both rural-rural and rural-urban streams.
  • Circular migrants are also attracted by agricultural work, such as the rice harvest season in West Bengal and the sugar cane harvest in Gujarat.
  • Education: Due to lack of educational facilities in rural areas, people migrate to the urban areas for better academic opportunities. In the 2011 census, about 1.77% people migrated for education.
  • Lack of security: Political disturbances and interethnic conflicts is another reason for internal migration.
  • Environmental and disaster induced factors:
  • There are migrants who are forced to move from rural to urban areas as a result of an environmental disaster that might have destroyed their homes and farms.
  • People are also forced to migrate from their traditional habitats due to gradual deterioration of changing environmental conditions.
  • There can also be forced displacement due to reasons such as developmental projects. According to a Lok Sabha Report, 2013 around 50 million people have been displaced to the name of development projects over 50 years in India.

Push Factors and Pull Factor:

Fig: Push Factors and Pull Factor


Impact of Internal Migration:

Positive Impact:

  • Labour Demand and Supply: Migration fills gaps in demand for and supply of labor, efficiently allocates skilled labor, unskilled labor, and cheap labor.
  • Economic Remittances: Economic wellbeing of migrants provides insurance against risks to households in the areas of origin, increases consumer expenditure and investment in health, education and assets formation.
  • Skill Development: Migration enhances the knowledge and skills of migrants through exposure and interaction with the outside world.
  • Quality of Life: Migration, enhances chances of employment and economic prosperity which in turn improves quality of life. The migrants also send extra income and remittance back home, thereby positively impacting their native place.
  • Social Remittances: Migration helps to improve the social life of migrants, as they learn about new cultures, customs, and languages which helps to improve brotherhood among people and ensures greater equality and tolerance.
  • Food and Nutrition Security: According to the 2018 State of Food and Agriculture report by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), outmigration often leads to improved food and nutrition security for migrants.
  • Demographic Advantage: As a result of outmigration, the population density of the place of origin is reduced and the birth rate decreases.
  • Climate Change Adaptive Mechanism: Migration has also emerged as a possible adaptive mechanism in the context of climate change and the occurrence of extreme weather events like floods, droughts, and cyclones.



Negative Impact:

  • Demographic Profile: Emigration in large numbers can alter demographic profiles of communities, as most of the young men move out, leaving only the women and elderly to work on the land.
  • Political Exclusion: Migrant workers are deprived of many opportunities to exercise their political rights like the right to vote.
  • Population Explosion and the Influx of workers in the place of destination increases competition.
  • Brain Drain: Source state suffers from the loss of human capital.
  • Increased Slum: Mass Migration results into an increase in slum areas, compromising quality of infrastructure and life at the destination, which further translates into many other problems such as unhygienic conditions, crime, pollution, etc.



Impact on Migrants (challenges faced by migrant workers):

  • Employment in informal economy: Migrants dominate the urban informal economy which is marked by high poverty and vulnerabilities. In an unorganized and chaotic labour market, migrant workers regularly face conflicts and disputes at worksites. The common issues they face are non-payment of wages, physical abuse, accidents and even death at work.
  • Issue of Identification documents: Proving their identity is one of the core issues faced by poor migrant labourers at destination areas. The basic problem of establishing identity results in a loss of access to entitlements and social services, such as subsidized food, fuel, health services, or education that are meant for the economically vulnerable sections of the population.
  • Housing: Lack of affordable housing in Indian cities force migrants to live in slums. Many seasonal migrants are not even able to afford rents in slums force them to live at their workplaces (such as construction sites and hotel dining rooms), shop pavements, or in open areas in the city
  • Financial Access: Migrant workers have limited access to formal financial services and remain unbanked
  • Access to healthcare: Migrant workers have poor access to health services, which results in very poor occupational health.
  • Education of children: UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) shows that children left behind by migrating parents and seasonal migrants face fewer educational opportunities overall. According to the report, 80% of migrant children across seven Indian cities did not have access to education near worksites. Among youth aged 15 to 19 who have grown up in a rural household with a seasonal migrant, 28% were identified as illiterate or had an incomplete primary education.
  • Social exclusion: There is growing hostility of urban governments, as well as middle-class citizens, towards the urban poor, especially migrants to the cities.
  • Political exclusion: Migrant workers are deprived of many opportunities to exercise their political rights. A 2011 study pointed out that 22% of seasonal migrant workers in India did not possess voter IDs or have their names in the voter list.


Challenges Faced By Society And Administration Due To Such Migration:

  • Inclusion and Integration of Migrants: Internal migration is not viewed positively in India and policies are often aimed at reducing internal migration, as a result, there is a lack of integration of migration with the process of development.
  • Psychological and Emotional Stress: Any person migrating to a new country faces multiple challenges, from cultural adaptation and language barriers to homesickness and loneliness.
  • Employment challenges: Foreign labor migrants often face unacceptable treatment from their employers. For instance, some labor migrants are paid below their contract wage and may be forced to work long hours and denied regular time off. Systems like reservation of jobs in many states and countries for the locals (visa barriers in US, Saudi Arabia’s Nitaqat law) pose as the main hurdle.
  • Contract Wage System: The problems faced by migrants in destination countries range from contract violation, non-payment of salary, long working hours, and poor working conditions.
  • Health Hazards: The poor and harsh living conditions coupled with difficult and risky working conditions, lack of information, and lack of medical health support also leads to several health problems of the migrants.
  • Lack of Information: In spite of the challenges and problems faced by the migrants in the destination countries, low tendency to seek assistance from the diplomatic missions in the destination countries were also observed due to lack of knowledge, information about the role of diplomatic missions, trust and effectiveness to enhance access to justice.



Steps taken:

  • Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1979: It seeks to address the unjust working conditions of migrant workers, including the necessity of gaining employment through middlemen contractors or agents who promise a monthly settlement of wages but do not pay when the time comes.
  • Enhancing livelihood opportunities for rural population: The government from time-to-time has taken various initiatives to combat farmers’ distress and enhance livelihood opportunities in rural areas. Examples: Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Attracting and Retaining of Youth in Agriculture (ARYA).
  • Infrastructure development in rural areas:
    • RURBAN Mission: It seeks to stimulate local economic development, enhance basic services, and create well planned Rurban clusters (cluster villages). One of the main objectives is to reduce the rural-urban divide-viz: economic, technological and those related to facilities and service
    • PURA (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas): It seeks to tackle the problem of migration of people from rural to urban areas for employment. It seeks to develop technology in villages, provide better connectivity, enhance livelihood opportunities etc.
    • SMART VILLAGES: It is a concept adopted by national, state and local governments in India, as an initiative focused on holistic rural development. The Eco Needs Foundation has initiated the concept of “Smart Village”. Under this project the Foundation is adopting villages and putting efforts for sustainable development by providing basic amenities like sanitation, safe drinking water, internal road, tree plantation, water conservation
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)

  • It was formed in the year 1948.
  • It is the development pillar of the United Nations.
  • UN DESA is a pioneer of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • It brings the global community together to work towards common solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
  • It helps countries translate their global commitments into national action in the economic, social and environmental spheres.
Facts and Figures for mains

  • The Constitution of India (Article 19)gives the right to all citizens “to move freely throughout the territory of India and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India”.
  • As per Census 2011, 45 million Indians moved outside their district of birth for economic opportunities (be it employment or business).
  • In India, internal migration (fuelled by an increasing rate of urbanization and rural-urban wage difference) is far greater than an external migration.
  • India’s urban population is expected to grow from 410 million in 2014 to 814 million by 2050.
  • Instead of long term migration, there is a huge flow of short term migrants in the country.
Migrants and the SDGs

  • The 2030 Agenda(with core principle to “leave no one behind,” including migrants) for Sustainable Development recognizes for the first time the contribution of migration to sustainable development.
  • 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain targets and indicators that are relevant to migration or mobility.
  • The SDGs’ central reference to migration is made intarget 10.7, to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.

COVID-19 crisis and internal Migrants:

  • According to the World bank report ‘COVID-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens’, nationwide lockdown in India due to COVID-19 has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants.
  • Around 60,000 moved from urban centers to rural areas of origin in the span of a few days.
  • The magnitude of internal migration is about two-and-a-half times that of international migration.
  • Internal migrants have faced issues in health services, food, cash transfer and other social programmes.
  • They are vulnerable to the loss of employment and wages during an economic crisis.
  • Lockdowns in labour camps and dormitories would increase the risk of contagion among migrant workers.
  • The state boundaries became the sites of violent migrant-police encounters, as police resorted to beating migrants for having violated the lockdown orders.
  • Thousands of them, without any means of transport left to their villages back on foot, dying of starvation, fatigue, and road accidents.
  • Though, on May 1, 2020, the Central government introduced special Shramik trains to take urban migrants back to their villages, due to train cancellations and exorbitant fares, these special trains brought little relief to urban migrants.

International (External) migration and Diaspora:

As per International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) latest report, ‘Global Migration Report 2020’, India continues to be the largest country of origin of international migrants with a 17.5 million-strong diaspora across the world.


Significance of Indian Diaspora:

  • Economic Front:
    • Indian diaspora is one of the richest minorities in many developed countries, this helped them to lobby for favourable terms regarding India’s interests. For example, at 2.8 million, Indians may number just 1% of the U.S. population, but they are the most educated and richest minority, according to a 2013 Pew survey.
    • The migration of less-skilled labour (especially to West Asia) has also helped in bringing down disguised unemployment in India.
    • In general, migrants’ remittances have positive systemic effects on the balance of payments. Remittances of $70-80 billion help to bridge a wider trade deficit.
    • By weaving a web of cross-national networks, the migrant workers facilitated the flow of tacit information, commercial and business ideas, and technologies into India.

  • Political Front:
    • Many people of Indian origin hold top political positions in many countries, in the US itself they are now a significant part of Republicans and Democrats, as well as the government.
    • The political clout of India’s diaspora can be estimated by the fact, the role it played in turning around doubting legislators into voting for the India-U.S. nuclear deal.
    • Foreign Policy Front:
      • Indian diaspora is not just a part of India’s soft power, but a fully transferable political vote bank as well.
      • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reception at Madison Square Garden is a way of thanking the Indian-American community members who played a big part in his electronic campaign and election funding.
      • The institutionalization of “diaspora diplomacy” is a distinct indication for the fact that a country’s diaspora community has become considerably more important as a subject of interest for foreign policy and associated government activities.


Challenges Faced by Indian Diaspora:

  • Heterogeneous diaspora: Indian Diaspora has different demands from the Indian Government.
  • The diaspora from the Gulf, for example, look to India for support on welfare issues.
  • While those from wealthier nations such as the US look to India for investment opportunities.
  • The Indian communities in countries such as Fiji and Mauritius, meanwhile, desire to reconnect with the country on cultural grounds.
  • Anti-Globalization: With the rising Anti-globalization wave, there has been an increase in the incidents of suspected hate crimes against the Indian community.
  • West Asian Crisis: The volatility in West Asia, together with the fall in oil prices, has caused fears of a massive return of Indian nationals, curtailing remittances and making demands on the job market.
  • Returning Diaspora: India must also realise that diaspora in West Asia is semi-skilled and mainly engaged in the infrastructure sector. After the infrastructure boom will get over India should be ready for the eventuality of Indian workers returning.
  • Regulatory Cholesterol: There are many inadequacies of the Indian system for the diaspora to collaborate with India or to invest in the country.
  • For example, grievances like red tape, multiple clearances, distrust of government are acting as hindrances in fulfilling opportunities presented by Indian Diaspora.
  • Negative Fallout: It must be remembered that having a strong diaspora does not always translate to benefits for the home country. India has had problems with negative campaigning and foreign funding, coming from abroad, for separatist movements like the Khalistan movement.

Measures taken by the Government:

  • For giving special focus to the issues pertaining to the Indian diaspora, the government set up a dedicated Ministry of oversees Indian affairs in 2004. It provides all round services to the diaspora
  • In 2003 started Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.
  • Pravasi Bhartiya Bima Yojana- for the welfare of Indian diaspora living abroad
  • Know India Programme launched as an orientation programme for diaspora youth conducted with a view to promote awareness on different facets of life in India and the progress made by the country in various fields.
  • Oversees Citizenship of India Scheme (OCI)- Scheme provides for benefits comparable to citizens in certain fields, like in economic and education fields etc.
  • The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is running a scheme known as “Tracing the Roots” to facilitate PIOs in tracing their roots in India.
  • The Swarnapravas Yojana- New Plan Scheme: This scheme has been launched for promoting the employability of Indian workers abroad.


  • Making Work Decent for Migrants
  • Help workers make informed choices
  • Protect human rights and workers’ rights at source and destination
  • Protect workers against exploitation to prevent them from getting into forced labour or human trafficking
  • Reduce costs of labour migration
  • Regulate placement agencies and agents Integrate migrants in the development agenda of states and/or cities
  • Build positive public perception of migrants



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