No homes away from home
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As per an NSSO survey (55th round conducted in 1999-2000) as many as 27 per cent of Indians are migrants — a set almost as large as the SC and ST population combined. As many as a third of the total urban population is migrant as opposed to a fourth for rural areas. But many of these have been in their new location for many years. If we concentrate on those who have migrated in less than a decade, the figures are still large — about 11 per cent (16 and 9 per cent of the urban and rural population respectively). On top of that another 1 per cent of the total population migrates seasonally to other places for more than two months a year. However, the recent killings in Assam and the sordid tale in Noida both indicate that India is not ready for the large-scale migration.
The bulk of the migration is for employment, though more than half of the women migrate due to marriage and many children migrate as their parents migrate, ultimately almost all of the long-term location choice is for employment opportunities of household members. This is of course natural. As some parts of the country grow faster, they create more opportunities than other areas. Not surprisingly net migrants to population rates are highest in states such as Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, each showing sustained high economic growth historically. And not surprisingly, Bihar and UP are by far the largest suppliers of domestic migrants.
A study of state GDP trends by Bibek Debroy and me showed that if past trends in per capita state GDP were to continue all the way till 2020, the differences in income and lifestyles between states would widen greatly. States such as Bihar would have a standard of living in 2020 much like what exists in Bangladesh today; and there would be parts of India not very different from lifestyles in developed countries such as the US and Germany (as measured in PPP terms). The point here is not what will happen, but economic forces that are being generated are going to create great pressure for people to migrate — from low wage locations to higher wage ones, and from low growth locations to high growth ones.
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