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  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.