Where do they Migrate?

Co-Written by Anubhav Chakraborty and Azam Abbas

 migrant labourers

“There is usually work out there in Surat,” recounts a old migrant employee, before boarding the Puri-Okha specific, one amongst the longest train journeys in India—transporting many thousands of migrant employees from coastal Odisha to Gujarat. Surat has been one amongst the world’s quickest growing cities of the past four decades, with annual increase rates surpassing 6 June 1944, and over seventieth of the city’s personnel these days is sourced from outside. Its diamond sprucing trade absorbs labour from some districts of Saurashtra (within the state of Gujarat) as trust may be a key part of the business and labour enlisting is mediate through robust caste networks. the opposite major trade is artificial textiles that churn out most of the sarees worn by Indian ladies, amid the thunderous noisy of powerlooms in small-scale industrial units.

In order to create the diamonds and artificial sarees, principally adorned by ladies, Surat employs over 1,000,000 male migrant employees drawn from everywhere Asian country. There area unit industry-specific recessions and economic disasters, like ending, that quickly halts or reverses the waves of migration, however Surat is wide thought-about to be the El Dorado of migrants. “Nobody leaves Surat poorer than once they initial arrive” may be a normally command expression among the migrant employees of Surat. “Most migrants eventually leave Surat” may preferably be the opposite.


Migration for work among Asian country is extremely circular, with migrants operating in multiple destinations throughout their lifetimes, and retiring in their native places. As per the Economic Survey of Asian country 2016-17, there area unit over 100 million migrant employees in Asian country, of that most area unit circular migrants. The durations will be as short as daily or every week, during which case they’re observed as commuters, listing within the tens of millions, UN agency oftentimes board trains and buses certain toward a close-by city or town.

A few additional tens of millions migrate seasonally for work—for some months of the year, drawn disproportionately from the regular Castes and Tribes and from explicit clusters in central Asian country (see map). They add precarious worksites in sectors starting from construction and brick kilns to rural gather operations.

These migrations area unit brokered by contractors, typically tied with debt, and studies have documented troublesome prospects of upward quality. A recent study by Divya Ravindranath on maternal health among migrant construction employees in Ahmedabad documented severe deficiency disease among ladies and kids. the dearth of access to social insurance advantages and pricey health facilities in an exceedingly land remote from home LED ladies to neglect their own health which of their kids. This and alternative problems associated with circular migration have prompted ‘portability of social insurance benefits’ to emerge as a serious policy concern. it had been conjointly advocated in an exceedingly first-of-its-kind policy document compiled by the working party on Migration, discharged by the govt. in 2017.

Beyond commuter and seasonal migrations, there area unit different kinds of migrations current in up to date Asian country on a colossal scale—for reasons like wedding, education, job transfers, and involuntary displacements. however long run circular or semi-permanent migration by migrants, UN agency typically own some land back home, kind the majority of work-related migrations in Asian country.

Great Indian Migration Wave

In a recently printed book, Asian country Moving: A History of Migration, I actually have argued that the nice Indian migration wave of semi-permanent, male-dominated, and remittance-based migration is that the world’s largest and longest voluntary stream of migration. Most of the dark shaded regions shown within the map area unit a part of it—primarily as well as the Bhojpuri speaking belt within the Gangetic plains, hr of the regions on coastal Asian country, the chain region and some alternative clusters. These regions have witnessed persistent mass migrations, typically for quite 100 years.

The great migration wave was east-bound within the nineteenth century towards geographical area, Burma, and geographic area; west-bound within the twentieth century towards the arc between geographic region and Maharashtra; and seems to be south-bound within the 21st century. whereas earlier, cities like city and metropolis absorbed several of the migrants, today, there area unit a larger variety of cities and cities that do therefore. Surat may be a classic example of a smaller city turning into a migrant hub. And this shows up within the sex quantitative relation, since all the new residents (migrants) area unit men. once Surat began to grow exponentially, its sex quantitative relation began to plummet from over 900 females per one thousand males within the Nineteen Sixties to around 750 these days.

The coastal belt below city, all the method down south to Kanyakumari, is one amongst India’s major hotspots of outmigration. Travel south on the exquisite Konkan railway and you may realize consistent stories of labour shortage and various signs of Western Union, the international cash transfer operator. traditionally, most migrants were Mumbai-bound on steamer routes, but today, destinations have diversified—especially to the Persian Gulf countries.

In Ratnagiri, the sex quantitative relation has remained over one,100 females per one,000 males since the decade, representing a curious development of ‘missing men’, a minimum of among bound districts, for brim over a century. whereas Marathas dominated the sooner waves of outmigration, recent analysis shows that outmigration has intense across all major caste teams on the coastal geographic region region. Circular migration has been a technique conditioned by gender norms and has conjointly been accustomed evade the steep housing prices of city. The strategy is to own a foot in 2 places at a similar. the ladies left behind fight additional agricultural tasks, though, in Ratnagiri, AN dealings in outmigration for work among ladies too has begun to be documented.

Over the decades, migration has eased absolute levels of economic condition and given a replacement voice to the bottom ranking castes, the Mahars, however left relative difference in landholdings intact. And with the increase in incomes, the notable mango orchards of the region attract tens of thousands of migrator employees all the method from Nepal—creating a replacement cycle.

Further south, in Goa, outmigration has reduced since the highs of the Nineteen Sixties however in some taluks, expatriation to the Gulf or to figure within the businessperson navy continues to carry an enormous draw for several. Udupi in coastal Mysore began its reference to city through the fast-food edifice business and has sustained this association in alternative ways that. collectively heads more south to Mangalore and cross the boundary to Kerala, the smell of Arab-style Shawarma is clear. It represents the cultural import from the Persian Gulf as uncountable circular migrants straddle their lives across the Arabian Sea in construction work and a excessiveness of sectors in city and alternative cities. just like the Nepalese import into Ratnagiri, over 2 million north Indians currently add Kerala to fill the void in segments of the labour market left vacant by upward quality.

Along the geographic area, an identical rush to the Persian Gulf and to a lesser extent, southeast Asia, is witnessed in districts around Sivaganga. within the boondocks, internal migration takes places towards the economic hubs of Salem and Tiruppur. The comparatively wealthy coastal Andhra belt has robust migrant ties with Hyderabad and an outsized diaspora in America. And more north in coastal Odisha, the historic ties with Union of Burma have swapped 360 degrees to Gujarat. Coastal Asian country so exhibits a shocking diversity of destinations in outmigration driven by a mix of history and necessity.

In boondocks Asian country, the immense Bhojpuri speaking belt of japanese province and western Bihar forms arguably the world’s largest pool from wherever migrant employees emerge. They add all the leading cities of India; have shut connections with the textile and industrial belts around city, the fields of geographic region, and, off late, have overtaken Kerala in supply migrants to the Persian Gulf.

Remittances from of these places flow throughout the year to thousands of villages and little cities, very similar to the tributaries of the stream Ganga. Migrants from the chain states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh realize primary sustenance within the informal economy of Delhi; those from northern Rajasthan within the industrial clusters.

Migration within the Deccan is smaller in magnitude however even here the nice migration wave looks to move in northern Karnataka; districts like Sangli in Maharashtra; and Durg in Chhattisgarh. And as places of destination, Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad kind the triad of booming cities within the boondocks as new opportunities open up each day. These cities, particularly Bengaluru, more and more attract migrants from the North-East in specialised sectors, wherever proficiency in English is extremely valued. whereas the IT sector and public administration are the main drivers of metropolitan town activities, the immense informal economy related to it—from plumbers to cooks to portable service workers—has absorbed the lower rungs of the migrant personnel. One sector especially has to be singled out, that of security guards, for fulfilling the dreams of millions to own a grip within the town. the safety trade has adult by leaps ANd bounds as gated campuses and townships have placed an excessive concentrate on police investigation measures to confirm ‘safety’ in their precincts.

Regional Connection

Of all the linguistic and regional communities of Asian country, it’s the migration of Bengalis that deserves the nearest attention. traditionally, they weren’t a vicinity of the migration wave. On the contrary, geographical area was a serious recipient of migrants since the late nineteenth century.

Bhojpuri folksongs accustomed denounce the alluring Bengali girl stealing the eye of Sanskrit migrant men UN agency were operating off from home. Over the past twenty years, however, with the relative stagnation within the economy of city, Bengalis have reticulated the length and breadth of the country to search out new destinations. And it’s not simply political economy departments that have absorbed their valuable skills. Artisanal add the gold sector attracts in many thousands of migrants from southern province to cities starting from Surat to Kochi and even remote rural locations. This specialised migrant network in one sector is that the latest addition to the nice Indian migration wave, which, within the past, had spawned the increase of the jute and cotton textile industries in metropolis and city, severally. however Bengali labour migration is slightly completely different as a result of there area unit many migration streams and a larger diversification in occupations, starting from construction to cultivation, and in regions as numerous as Gujarat and Kerala.

While Bengali contribution to south Indian films earlier came through leading feminine actors UN agency became outstanding within the Telugu industry, it’s currently even broken the Malayalam frontier through songs on migration. in an exceedingly recent Malayalam film, Njan Prakashan, a personality laments that with Gulf-bound international expatriation, the Keralites have lost the art of farming and their songs. The Malayali film then breaks into a full-length Bengali song—Badi Badi Bar—showing scenes of rice cultivation with Bengali labour in Kerala. In up to date Asian country, it looks it’s the Bengalis intercommunicate sing.

Anubhav Chakraborty enjoys conversations, music and nothing more than a good cup of tea. Passionate about films, he has an analysed opinion about all that he watches and has been interning in reputed organisations since his under-graduation years, the most notable amongst them being the Times Group. Apart from being theoretically and conceptually sound in matters relating to journalism, he was the one to break the story of Gagandeep Singh online with the Citizen group, for a piece that managed to garner the group their greatest hits online. He also has to his repertoire, working with international projects, namely voice-over work for robots for a Chinese company. 
Azam Abbas-I am freelance journalist interested in print, online journalism, multimedia andTV journalism. I am experienced in news writing, video and online journalism and passionate about journalism in vernacular languages. My work has been published in The Wire, The Quint, The Citizen, Muslim Mirror, and Countercurrents.org. I have also worked with Urdu newspaper Akhbare Mashriq for one year.


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News