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

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Migrant Workers from West Bengal since 1991

From the Left to TMC Government

The in and out balance of migration in West Bengal, for the first time, was recorded negative in the 2000s, and it is estimated to have gotten worse in the 2010s. Based on estimates, more people migrated out than entered the state in the 2010s compared to the 2000s. Though the crisis started towards the end of the left regime, it has worsened under the Trinamool Congress government. The article provides insights into labour migration, unemployment and economic growth during 1991–2018.

One in every three persons in India is a migrant (Census 2011). Most of them are confined within state boundaries, while a handful of them move out of their states. Based on place of last residence (POLR), out of India’s 455.8 million migrants, 54.3 million or 4.5% moved out of their states for different reasons (Census 2011). Although the volume of interstate migration is lesser compared to intrastate migration, it is significant from an economic perspective. Many migrants coming from economically weaker states meet the demand for labour in the economically well-off states. Interstate migration is an instrument for diminishing regional inequality, eradicating poverty, and enhancing inclusive development.

From a policy perspective, interstate migration is crucial. Migration within a state (intrastate) falls under the respective state governments, but when migrants cross state boundaries, neither origin nor the destination state is willing to take the responsibility for them. In fact, there are no accurate statistics for labour migrants either at the state or central level. Last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, thousands of stranded migrant labour flooded the roads in different metro cities, returning on foot to their homes, as hundreds died on highways and railway tracks. They were, literally, sandwiched. While destination states pushed them out, the states of origin were unwilling to take the burden. Apart from governmental discrimination, locals either in the host or source states did not act any different in their treatment of migrants. This reeks of a narrative of exclusion, where interstate migrants are exploited as labour, but their distress is not shared and neither is the responsibility for their protection. A substantial proportion, nearly 30%, of interstate migration is induced by work/employment, and is male-dominated (Census 2001, 2011).

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Updated On : 19th Jul, 2021
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