The migrant policy of the country has to evolve keeping in mind the changing patterns of migration in the country. Discuss. (15 Marks)

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Census 2011 data reveals that 45.36 crore Indians (37 per cent) in India are domestic migrants – now settled in a place different from their previous residence. India also has a large community of international diaspora living around the globe and make India the largest receiver of remittances in the world.

Status and changing pattern of Migration in India

  • International Migration – India is the country of origin of over 17.5 million immigrants or 6.4% of the global total, among the largest source of international migrant population 
  • Traditionally pattern
        • The United Arab Emirates, the US and Saudi Arabia were the top destinations of the Indian diaspora.
        • Anglophone countries such as the US, UK, Australia have been the favourite destination for skilled migrants
        • West Asia has been more popular among non-skilled migrants
  • How this pattern is changing 
      • India’s international migrants are not just from the southern states but also come from the north, including from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar — this is partly due to the demographic dividend of these states. 
      • Migration of Indians to the African continent has jumped 187% since 1990, as Indian companies set up businesses there.
      • The number of Indian immigrants in various Asian nations jumped 122% since the 1990s
      • Indian students are moving to Non-Anglophone countries such as China, Japan, Germany and the countries of the former Soviet bloc.
      • Social media has become a powerful tool to highlight the plights of migrant workers. In several cases, the Union Ministry of External Affairs has taken swift action after there were reports on the plight of migrants in social media. 
  • Domestic Migration
  • Traditional pattern
        • The Hindi belt is the main source of migrants. According to the census, four states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh accounted for 50% of India’s total inter-state migrants.
        • Maharashtra has the highest share of in-migrants.
        • Most of the migrants, around 70 per cent, are females, with the primary reason being marriage.
  • How this pattern in changing
      • Lesser Indians are now relocating for work and employment — 10.2 per cent in 2011, down from 14.4 per cent in 2001.
      • Nativist tendencies such as son of soil policy as evident in Maharashtra is creating a climate of fear and uncertainty among the migrants.

How Migrant Policy needs to evolve

  • Traditionally Migrant Policies have been concentrated on labour only. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 was enacted to cover migrant labour but its weak enforcement remains a critical issue.
  • We also know that migration patterns are dissimilar between genders. Migration studies would, therefore, benefit from a gender studies perspective. 
  • Migration studies have not given much thought to increase the use of social media for migrant welfare.
  • Distress migration does not receive enough attention. Such migrants can be victims of human trafficking, workers who do not have proper documents, migrants trapped in a war zone or conflict areas or those who have been involved in workplace accidents.
  • India is also a destination for students from African countries, but such migration is largely an under-researched area.
  • We must conceptualise migration studies beyond producing databases — though that too is important. We need to understand migration through the lens of historians, psychologists, sociologists, geographers and legal specialists.

Kerala has conducted a series of eight migration surveys while Tamil Nadu, Goa, Punjab and Gujarat have produced state-level data only once. Migration is a changing phenomenon and understanding its dynamics requires research at adequate intervals. Finally, it is equally important to frame a comprehensive national migration policy to address the issues faced by migrants.

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