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Whose city is this?

The myths on migration,and the truth....

The Maharashtra Assembly elections have once again brought on to the surface the old controversy about migration,and ‘outsiders’ swamping Mumbai. At the other end of the spectrum,the recently released UNDP Human Development Report asserts quite clearly that migration is not a whimsical move but is a carefully thought out economic decision which boosts economic output at little or no cost to locals.

Leaving the theories of migration aside,it is important to be clear about the quantum of migration within India and who is going where. During the intercensal period 1991-2001,the total number of people who moved was no more than 98 million. Out of this ‘rural to rural’ was more than half,amounting to 53.3 million. Farm workers moving from Bihar or UP to Punjab or Haryana or from Orissa to Andhra are examples. The ‘rural to urban’ component was only 20.6 million; ‘urban to urban’ was another 14.3 million — making a total of about 35 million people.

Out of this number,about 12.5 million moved to the 34 major urban agglomerations. The 2001 Census does carry information about what portions of these migrants are from within the state and the number from outside. There are only 7 metropolitan cities where migrants from outside the state are more than the migrants from within. Delhi,of course,tops the list with 94 per cent from outside,but since the original settlers of Delhi are miniscule,it should be taken out of reckoning in a migration analysis. Of the remaining 6,it is Faridabad that tops the list for migration from other states with 83.6 per cent and not Mumbai as is commonly believed where the share of migrants from outside the state is much less at 63 per cent. Jamshedpur,Ludhiana and Dhanbad have percentages ranging from 71 to 64.

Of course in absolute numbers,Mumbai received about 15.7 lakhs during the 1991-2001 period,but in other cities of Maharashtra the proportion of migrants from within the state was much more such as 79 per cent in Nashik,66 per cent in Pune and 54 per cent in Nagpur. Should the demand of some political leaders to close the doors against outsiders be invoked against the 13 lakhs people who moved into these 3 cities from within Maharashtra? Who is the insider,who is the outsider and how long should the label stick?

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The UNDP report also highlights the fact that most migration takes place within the region of origin. The choice before a migrant is harsh and what he will face in the destination city is even more so. Assuming he does get a job on arrival,the migrant has to find his way through a complex web of illegality and extraction from ration card to shelter,enduring severe lack of basic services. The migrant also needs a minimum contact point at the destination city; a nail perhaps to hang his shirt on and after a few months,an outlet to charge his cell phone. But he does not usually traverse long distances and he ends up within his state or region. About 80 to 90 per cent of the migrants moving into Rajkot,Vijayawada,Madurai,Coimbatore,Hyderabad or Patna are all from within the respective states.

The tirade against migration,especially from other states,also conveniently overlooks the simple fact that the economy and well-being of most of the destination cities depends on their access to the all-India market. The increase in employment in big cities also requires a steady supply of labour. The net domestic product and per capita income has been conspicuous in its increase in a few states. The 2006 per capita income figure for Maharashtra is about Rs 30,000/- and the net domestic product of Rs 386,000 crores is a five-fold increase over the past 10 years. So it is with Andhra or Tamil Nadu. It is also worth noting that Maharashtra has a little over 13 per cent of the country’s factories and employment. Tamil Nadu has 15 per cent of both and Andhra 11.3 per cent of the factories and 10.7 per cent of the employment.

These are parts of the country’s economic engine and not to be regarded as the fragmented and exclusive preserve of the respective states. It is pointless to argue that investment,capital and goods can move without hindrance,but not people. The compulsion for striking political postures are understood,but they should not imperil the economic integrity of the country.

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The writer is Professor and Chairman of the Centre for Policy Research,Delhi

First published on: 10-10-2009 at 03:51:28 am
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