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Migration and Reverse Migration in the Age of COVID-19

The notion of the “migrant” in the current capitalist times and the world of migrants in it are explored. The source to destination streams of migrant labour is outlined, and it is then argued that reverse migration will perhaps usher in the greatest crisis in the rural landscape of India, for which we are not yet prepared.

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a massive reverse mig­ration from the “destination” to “source” in large parts of the country. We witness hundreds of thousands of ­labourers marching back to their villages in order to find some warmth and empathy more than anything else, as the rest is going to be too hard to come by. This article is about that migration.

The available data indicates a widely differing reality about migrants in India. While, as per Census 2011, the total number of internal migrants would be 450 million—more than 30% higher than 2001—the actual numbers perhaps are higher than what is captured by the census. Field realities do indicate that Uttar Pradesh (uP) and Bihar are the biggest source states of migrants, followed closely by Madhya Pradesh (MP), Punjab, Rajasthan, ­Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal; the major destination states are Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and ­Kerala. Another marked change in the migration pattern in the last decade has been the interstate movement to new growth centres, especially in small and medium sized towns and million plus cities. However, the defining feature of who is a migrant is rather flexible, even in official records. Usually the migrants do get defined on the basis of place of birth or last place of residence and a ­deviation from it. Hence, such a characterisation puts severe constraint to understand the issue of migrants in this form of definitional context.

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Updated On : 11th May, 2020

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