Human Migration Issues in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 13th, 2023

According to the International Migrant Stock 2019 report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs(UNDESA), India with 17.5 million international migrants has emerged as the prime source of international migrants, constituting 6.4% of the world’s total migrant population. As an important national issue and also given the recent mass exodus of migrants all around India in the wake of nationwide lockdown, This topic becomes crucial in upcoming UPSC/State PCS exams.


Human Migration Issue in India: About Migration; Causes; issues; Way forward; Conclusion

About Migration

  • The International organization for Migration (IOM) defines any migrant as an individual who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from her/his habitual place of residence, notwithstanding:
    • Person’s legal status
    • Whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary
    • What the causes for the movement are
    • What the length of the stay is
  • As per Census of India, when a person is enumerated in the census at a place other than his / her place of birth, she/he is considered a migrant. 
  • Internal migration in India is primarily of two types:
    • Long Term Migration, leading to the relocation of an individual or a household.
    • Short Term Migration, involving back and forth movement between a source and the destination.


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  •  Key Source States: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh.
  •  Key Destination States: Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Karnataka.
  • Over 58 crore Indians were found to be “migrants” for many reasons throughout the enumeration exercises of Census 2011. The previous Census conducted in 2001 had recorded the number of migrants at 31.45 crore — more than 30% less than the 2011 figure.
  • The bulk of migration takes place within the individual states — out of the total number of persons registered as “migrants” within the 2011 Census, only 11.91% (5.43 crore) had moved to one state from another, whereas nearly 39.57 crores had moved within their states.
  • Female Migration: Out of the total internal migrants in India, 70.7 percent of them are women (Census of India 2001) and marriage is one of the key factors for female migration in both the urban and rural areas.
  • Male Migration: Migration for the employment-related reasons is one of the outstanding reasons for male migration in both rural and urban areas.
  • Employing Sectors: Migrants mostly work in subsectors like construction, domestic work, textile, brick-kilns, mines, quarries, agriculture and transportation
  • Urbanization: Rates of urbanization influence the rural-urban wage differences and a rise in the demand for labour in urban areas will push up urban wages and increase migration.
  • External Migration: External migration in India can be classified as: 
    • Immigration of individuals from different countries to Bharat.
    • Emigration from India to various parts of the world.
    • Refugee Migration: There is also an involuntary or forced immigration to India in the form of refugees.


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Push Factors

Pull Factors

These are reasons for leaving an area, which is termed emigration, as a result of certain difficulties.

These are reasons for moving into a place, which is termed as immigration, as a result of aspiration, dream, or something desirable.

  • Crop failure – food shortage
  • Calamities – drought, flooding, earthquake
  • Lack of safety, high incidents of crime
  • Lack of services – education, health
  • Poverty
  • War with other countries, civil wars
  • Higher employment
  • Better infrastructure to address with calamities
  • Abundance in the food supply
  • More safety, lesser incidents of crime
  • Better services
  • More freedom


  • In urban regions, migrants are forced to live in ghettos with no access to amenities like clean drinking water, electricity, safe homes, etc. 
  • They form groups in public places or markets waiting to be recruited as manual labourers. This makes them susceptible to exploitation, which incorporates physical assaults, lack of a fair wage etc. 
  • they are usually depicted as anti-social elements and face significant discrimination from other sections of the society. 
  • Due to the unstable nature of their jobs and residence, they’re often declared illegal residents and are evicted or arrested. 
  • Social media has further their misery. Migrants are usually represented as criminals and this barrage of social media messages escalates into targeted violence against them. As an example, fake messages triggered a mass exodus of labourers from North-east in Bangalore. 
  • An increase in extreme climatic events also triggers mass migration. These migrants have an additional disadvantage because in most cases they have lost their relevant documents and any capital/asset that would facilitate a simple translocation. 
  • Rural distress that force to migrate out from rural to an urban area. 
  • Inter-State Migrant Workers Act, 1979 that aims to safeguard migrants, is obsolete & is hardly enforced anywhere lack of credible data on the incidence of seasonal migration poses serious constraint in framing a holistic policy. Migrants may also be ignored in BPL Surveys
  • Inclusion and Integration of Migrants: Internal migration isn’t viewed positively in India and policies are usually aimed towards reducing internal migration, due to this, there is a lack of integration of migration with the process of development.
  • Psychological and Emotional Stress: Anyone migrating to a new country faces multiple challenges, from cultural adaptation and language barriers to homesickness and loneliness. the vulnerability of women and children are to trafficking and sexual exploitation are also at an extreme level.
  • Contract Wage System: The issue faced by migrants in destination countries vary from contract violation, non-payment of wages or salary, long working hours, reservation systems like Nitaqat law and poor working conditions.
  • Health Hazards: The poor and harsh living conditions coupled with difficult and risky working conditions, lack of data, and lack of medical health support lead to several health problems of the migrants.
  • Exclusion from social benefits: The requirement to provide proof of address, ration cards, Voter IDs and Aadhaar cards, deprive them of accessing welfare schemes and policies.
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Way Forward

  • The Human Development Report by UNDP (2009) highlights that migration is integral to the process of human development and it plays a very vital role in achieving sustainable development goals, thereby preventing migration could even be counterproductive.
  • Hence India needs to work on migration centric policies, strategies, and institutional mechanisms so as to ensure inclusive growth & development and reduce distress induced migration.
  • The government at Centre has to provide amenities and social securities for the migrant population. For example, schemes like Kerala government’s Aawaz health insurance scheme, Apna Ghar project -accommodation for migrant workers.
  • long term awareness campaigns. 
  • Every major town and city must begin a specific budget only for the development of the migrant population. The central government may look distress migration as a disaster-related issue and allocate necessary funds for the same. 
  • Smart city campaign needs to include the provision of affordable and safe housing for migrants. 
  • Law enforcement agencies need to sensitize to the special needs of this vulnerable section of the society and to evolve specific strategies to curb hate speech in social media.
  • Caste-based enumeration of migrants ought to be adopted in order to avail the attendant benefits in the States to which migration takes place
  • Post Offices, the banking system and Payment Banks, need to be strengthened so as to reduce the cost of transfer of money and to avoid informal remittances channels
  • Underutilized Construction Workers Welfare Cess Fund ought to be used to promote rental housing & working Women Hostels
  • Social media has to become a powerful tool to highlight the plights of migrant workers.
  • Centre for migration studies may be established in universities as well as in research institutions.
  • Bridging the knowledge gap can also be done by replicating the Kerala model of migration surveys across all states.
  • Lastly, it is equally important to frame a comprehensive national migration policy to address the issues faced by migrants.


High migration in India is a reality. We may balance them with better policy implementation that can reduce regional disparities, however, there’s a need to acknowledge the issues with migrants and resolve them with full political will.

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