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Gotta Keep on Movin': August 2018

by Varun and the IMN team

 

India Migration Now wants to make migration a key part of India's development agenda.

We have spent our 2018 reading, writing, listening and thinking to find answers to some of the most crucial, yet unaddressed questions about migration in India: who is migrating within India, to India and from India? And why does it all matter?

While embarking on this seemingly mammoth task, we expected it to take many months to grasp the general trends. 

Little did we know that only a few months into that journey, all the meaningful answers out there could be assembled into half a newsletter. 


Knowledge gaps and information silos lead to erroneous and incomplete perspectives

The coverage of migration typically focuses on international migration, internal migration and forced migration separately. This narrow approach does not fully capture the dynamic and fluid nature of migration. It leads to vague dichotomies such as economic migrants and asylum seekers (as seen in the EU) or irregular and temporary migrants (as seen in India-Bangladesh).  

Even the impact of migration is looked at in a siloed and segmented fashion. Migration has an impact on migrants, their source households and regions, and destinations. All at the same time.

Keeping this in mind, we kept snooping around and started assembling insightful reports, papers and projects on the relevant topics in close consultation with our migration experts.


India is a country of migrants

In the long-gone past, even the British (East India Company) misunderstood the importance of migration (or perhaps they understood it well and chose to limit migration for their own benefit).  

We further learned that post-1900, migration has been an abiding feature of India. This has had deep structural and demographic impacts on large parts of the country.

Often in India  (especially in the media and in the policy circles), rural distress has been cited as the reason for internal migration to cities, implying a forced migration scenario. But this attribution exercise does not factor in the decision making role of the migrant’s households, where some members choose to stay.  

The bottom-up (field level) perspectives [1][2][3][4][5] on internal migration in India kept repeating the same mantra: Poor households in India are much more proactive and capable than assumed, and that migration is a key part of their strategy to survive and thrive.

But at the same time, the top-down perspective relying on government data tells a drastically different and frustratingly incomplete tale. Key takeaway: In India, we have serious discrepancies in how we define and understand different kinds of migration in the country.

When we ran out of insightful academic work and policy reports, we turned towards quality journalism which threw light on the role of migrants in the production of essential Indian staples and the development of key infrastructure.  We also found important reportage in our South Asian neighbourhood on their migration experiences.

 

 

Step into the world of the ice men of Mumbai, a community of immigrants, who work around the clock to crush, shovel and haul baraf (Hindi for ice).

Director & Editor: Niyantha Shekar
Director of Photography: Anirudh Ganapathy
Producers: Niyantha Shekar & Anirudh Ganapathy

 

Let there be light (and data)

In 2017, the Indian Government (GOI) revealed that migration is important and that their understanding is flawed and incomplete.

The GOI also commissioned experts, who pretty much said the same things and then a lot more.

In response to the data limitations in India, we at India Migration Now (IMN) started analysing all the databases we could find on migration.

After realising that no single database could help in grasping the true nature of Indian migration and its impact on society, we decided that it is time to move away from the prevalent practice of producing the best estimates possible from a single survey. 

Instead, we decided to produce the best possible estimates to meet user needs from multiple data sources.

This led to the conception of the IMN Migration Data Portal.

 

Gotta stop them from movin’?

The World Bank, with access to the most detailed database available (from Census 2001!), found state-level policies to be "significant impediments to internal mobility." 

The latest Census (2011) is telling us that there are half a billion migrants in India. But somehow policies in India tend to ignore migration or have the implicit or explicit aim to reduce migration. 

In response to the policy concerns, many experts had assembled together in 2011 under the auspices of UNICEF and recommended crucial areas for policy interventions.  

The IMN team took note of these areas for interventions and, inspired by the terrific MIPEX project in the EU, started to document the various policies related to migration at the central and state levels in India. 

We started building an index to rank and compare all the states of India (w/ each other) based on their migration-related policies. 

This became our IMN Policy Index project.

India Migration Now Podcast: Episode 1
(click on the logo above to access the podcast)

We at India Migration Now understand the importance of minimising screen time.

So we made a podcast in which Varun Aggarwal (IMN Founder/Lead) will elaborate on the themes of each newsletter every month. In this inaugural episode Varun is joined by Dr Irudaya Rajan (CDS, Trivandrum)  and Nikhil Panicker (IMN Researcher) to profile migration in India.  

Produced by Nakul Aggarwal

Theme Track from Kenji Kawai’s Ghost In The Shell (Original Soundtrack) 

About India Migration Now

India Migration Now was founded in February 2018. We want to change the policy perspective that sees migration as something to limit and control into something which has to be harnessed and cultivated. An effective migration policy regime can become the most effective poverty-reducing program for the Indian government.

Ours is a geographically diverse team of collaborators (from 7 countries and 5 Indian states) consisting of researchers, entrepreneurs, teachers and people who really like data and policies. But we are bounded by a passion for India's development, deep allergy to bullshit and love for collaborative endeavours.

Some recent IMN developments:

- Our founder, Varun decided to introspect and write about why migration matters to him.

- We also jointly organised (w/ our friends at EIAS) a panel discussion in that hotbed of migration-related discussions ..Brussels!


If you have reached this far, chances are that you think migration matters.

So write to us: hate mail, love mail, papers, research ideas, cool Twitter threads.... we're game for it all! Consider this newsletter to be your blank canvas.

And finally, please please share this newsletter, let's get those "network effects" in action.

See you in September.

Cheers,

Varun and the IMN team

Copyright © *2018* *India Migration Now, All rights reserved.

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