ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Challenging Received Wisdom

India Migration Report 2013: Social Costs of Migration edited by S Irudaya Rajan (New Delhi: Routledge), 2013; pp vii + 339, Rs 795.

For more than a century, migration has been regarded by its mainstream supporters as almost entirely beneficial to all that inescapably directs individuals, communities, and nation states to economic development, modernity, and progress. Yet, this assuredly confident portrait, espoused by Indian proponents of unrestrained regional and global migration, is readily contradicted on a daily basis in the media outside India. In May, The Guardian reported that in Qatar, poor working conditions were accountable for the deaths of more than 1,000 construction workers from India and Nepal between January 2012 and April 2014.

Migrant workers are still dying in Qatar at a rate of more than one a day, intensifying pressure on the Gulf state to improve conditions for the 1.4 million labourers helping it prepare for 2022 World Cup. … According to official figures, a total of 53 Nepalese workers died between January 2014 and mid-April this year, taking the toll on that country since January 2012 to more than 430. New figures from the Indian embassy show that 89 migrants died in the first four months of the year, bringing the total of Indian deaths to 567 since January 2012 (Gibson 2014).

These ephemeral news stories in the press about the struggles of foreign guest workers reveal that while migration is quantified by remittances back home and higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth, it can also be measured on the basis of exploitation, human suffering, and human lives.

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