Internal Migration: Transmuting Rural India's Population

Today, internal migration seems to have a similar effect on the economies of both the states involved, the lifestyle of their people and more importantly, on the survival of their populations   Migration is not about the distance a person travels or states that she or he changes, it’s about survival.  What we've mostly observed is migration from states of lower per capita income or the “poor states” to the so called “rich states” in search of better opportunities.

Being a migrant is not a risk factor in itself, but the process of migration and integration into local communities may expose the migrant to the risk of acquiring potential negative effects. Today, exposure to various diseases is easier than what it was a decade or two ago.  Migrant populations face a higher threat for poor health in general and and HIV infection in particular. This is due to the impact of socio-cultural patterns of the migrant situation on health, their economic transitions, reduced availability and accessibility of health services, and the difficulties faced by the host state health care systems in coping with the traditions and practices of the immigrants. The otherness of migrants may create xenophobia, isolation and hostility by the host community. In addition, as with other people living with HIV/AIDS, migrants who are HIV-positive are subject of stigmatization and discrimination. Therefore, they hide their HIV status as long as possible, thus making support services unavailable to them.

Immigration has indeed helped a large section of population and made the lives of millions more prosperous and is likely to cast further positive impact in times to come.  There is growing evidence in India to suggest that the country is quickly moving towards attaining its overall development goals. Structural transformation in the 1990's has propelled the growth of the economy further. The percentage of the population below the poverty line has reduced and per-capita consumption has improved simultaneously. Although the Indian economy is predominantly agricultural, the proportion of work force engaged in agricultural activities has fallen significantly. This reduction is perhaps, a sign of enhanced job opportunities in other sectors.

The increase in rural migration and suburban migration leads to increased population concentrations in cities. It is not merely a modern phenomenon of transforming the rural areas to the urban ones, but it is a rapid and historic transformation of human social roots on a global scale. Urbanization usually accompanies social and economic development, but rapid urban growth on today’s scale strains the capacity of local and national governments to provide even the most basic of amenities such as water, electricity and sewerage.
 (Photocredit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/dharavi)
         Squatter settlements and over-crowded slums are home to millions like Dharavi, Mumbai

Does this search for a better lifestyle give them a better life? The environmental and social conditions they live in provide the 'status' of living in Mumbai but have they in any way been uplifted to a better living standard? Are they more secure, or financially better off or healthier? Can these answers be affirmative? I'll share a story about the domestic-help working in my local community - a migrant from Rajasthan. When asked how secure he was in this city. He replied candidly,  “We have our own people staying together and if there is any need we rely on them.” On being asked what he did with the money he earned and where did he save/deposit his savings, he replied “I take all my savings back home and save there.” Does this confirm that they're secure and have a better life in villages?

A quote by Max Frisch “We asked for workers. We got people instead” correctly describes the situation.  Today, we can move out of our homes to an unknown place, and begin our new life with hope; a hope for a new improved life, and more importantly for a tenable future.  I believe we all deserve it, we all deserve a chance.

I'm a part of this same trend as well and migrated away from my home to another state in search of three important things - better education, better opportunities and more importantly security. I might have gotten it all, maybe I am happier & luckier too, I don’t know that yet, and maybe I don’t want to know. In this regard, the situation with rural migrants is similar, they may not know or may not wish to know where they might have landed.

Note:  Identities of persons mentioned has been modified due privacy reasons

Further Reading and Watching:
·          Further Reading about Internal Immigration and Health
·         Issues about Migration and Immigration - http://www.fao.org/wairdocs/ad696e/ad696e04.htm
·         Video about Migrant workers and health issues - http://www.avert.org/hiv-india.htm

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