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

A+| A| A-

The Fundamental Freedom to Migrate within India

The debate over migrant workers in recent times and their invisibility in government data and in policy discourse has led to a series of responses from state and central governments. While the number of returning migrants is lower in the second wave of Covid-19, nothing much has changed for the migrants on the ground. This past year has seen state governments, such as Haryana and Karnataka, move to give preference to “local” persons over migrants, even as a draft national migrant policy is under consideration. Is there a constitutional right to migrate within India? What, if any, are the duties cast upon governments and employers? These questions must be considered if the current migrant crisis is not to result in deprivation of the fundamental right to internal migration.


The images of returning migrant workers due to Covid-19 lockdown triggered widespread public debates on the invisibility of migrant workers in normal times, their absence in policy discourse, and the need for a robust legal framework to protect migrants (ILO 2020). In the midst of this pandemic, pressure has been brought upon governments to ensure minimum dignity and rights of migrant workers. Yet, disturbingly, some governments such as Karnataka had sought to restrict migrant workers right to return to their home states, while others such as Haryana sought to replace them with local workers (Poovanna 2020; PRS 2021). A draft policy on migrant workers is reportedly under discussion at the national level. The question whether there is a right to migrate within India, and what, if any, are the duties cast upon the central government, the employer and state governments involved, must be considered so that the current migrant crisis does not result in depriving workers of their right to internal migration.

Right to Internal Migration

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

INR 59

(Readers in India)

$ 6

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.