Updated: February 1, 2017 5:12:54 am
Almost three years into its tenure, the Narendra Modi government has a major worry. The migrant Bihar or UP labourer who saw the living standards of his family back home rise, thanks to a decade-long boom in the internal remittances economy, is experiencing a reversal of fortune. And this is something that the Finance Ministry’s own latest Economy Survey has partially acknowledged.
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Inter-State labour migration flows, which surged during the high-growth period of the Indian economy from 2003 to 2013 and created work opportunities for millions, especially in the less-developed northern and eastern hinterlands, have taken a huge hit with the slowdown over the last three years or so.
According to the Economic Survey, net out-of-state flows of migrant labourers across India peaked at almost 9.4 million in 2013-14, before falling to 9.1 million in 2014-15 and just over 8.4 million in 2015-16.
The Survey has estimated the numbers using monthly data on unreserved passenger traffic between every pair of stations in India from the Ministry of Railways. Net annual flows of unreserved passenger travel, it has pointed out, can be used as a proxy for migrant labour flows because this commuter class “serves less affluent people, who are more likely to travel for work-related reasons”.
Census data shows that the annual growth in the country’s migrant workforce rose from an average 2.4 per cent during 1991-2001 to 4.5 per cent in the following decade. Interestingly, the growth in the latter period was even more for the female workforce (7.5 per cent) than males (4 per cent).
The boom in internal labour migration, in turn, fuelled a domestic remittances market estimated annually at over Rs 1.5 lakh crore, serving a tenth of households in India and financing around 30 per cent of consumption of remittances-receiving families.
Much of this migration has entailed movement of labour from relatively poor states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam to more prosperous states like Maharashtra, Delhi-NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
The migrant labour has been engaged both in manufacturing industries from textiles to auto and firms involved in a range of services from construction, retail, hospitality and security.
The Survey has identified 70-odd districts in India with high net outmigration rates. Significantly, the bulk of these are in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, both states currently in election-mode. These include Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Bulandshahr, Bijnor, Moradabad, Bareilly, Rampur, Badaun, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Hathras, Etah, Mainpuri, Kannauj, Kanpur Dehat, Fatehpur, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Deoria and Azamgarh in UP and Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudra Prayag, Tehri and Pauri Garhwal, Pithoragarh and Almora in Uttarakhand. The other big out-migration state is Bihar, with the major districts being Darbhanga, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Bhojpur, Buxar and Jehanabad.
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