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What is Migration? Impact of Covid 19 on Migrant Labours – Facts about Human Migration in India

What is Migration? Impact of Covid 19 on Migrant Labours – Facts about Human Migration in India


  • GS 1 || Society || Population || Migration

Why in the news?

The rapid spread of the pandemic caught countries across the world off guard, resulting in widespread lockdowns that clamped down on mobility, commercial activities and social interactions. In India, the pandemic precipitated a severe ‘crisis of mobility’, with migrant labourers in many major cities seeking to return to their hometowns


  • The rapid spread of the pandemic Covid-19 caught countries across the world off guard, resulting in widespread lockdowns that clamped down on mobility, commercial activities and social interactions.
  • In India, the pandemic precipitated a severe ‘crisis of mobility’, with migrant labourers in many major cities seeking to return to their hometowns.
  • Their desperate attempts to return home by any means available rendered the lockdown ineffective in several areas, prompting clashes with authorities, last-minute policy relief and, eventually, the arrangement of transport measures.
  • This paper aims to shed light on the vulnerability of India’s internal migrants in terms of their mobility, gender and mental health.

Understanding all the aspect of migration:

What is migration?

  • Migration, the permanent change of residence by an individual or group; it excludes such movements as nomadism, migrant labour, commuting, and tourism, all of which are transitory in nature.
  • Migrations fall into several broad categories. First, internal and international migration may be distinguished.
  • Within any country there are movements of individuals and families from one area to another (for example, from rural areas to the cities), and this is distinct from movements from one country to another. Second, migration may be voluntary or forced.
  • Most voluntary migration, whether internal or external, is undertaken in search of better economic opportunities or housing.
  • Forced migrations usually involve people who have been expelled by governments during war or other political upheavals or who have been forcibly transported as slaves or prisoners.
  • Intermediate between these two categories are the voluntary migrations of refugees fleeing war, famine, or natural disasters.

Types of migration:

  • Internal migration: Internal migration is that it is a change of residence from one civil division to another, or across the administrative boundary of a civil division. Thus, it may be said that a migrant is a mover who changes her (or his) residence from the political area of her usual residence.
  • Based on direction of movement Within internal migration, there is a four-way classification according to the direction of movements within and between rural and urban areas, which are:
  • Image below shows rural to urban shift
  • Internal migration takes place due to various motivations and reasons. These fall in the following main categories:
    • Marriage migration
    • Labour migration or migration of people for work, employment, etc.
    • Migration due to natural calamities

International Migration:

  • An international migration occurs when people cross the political boundary of their home country and enter another.
  • International migration is as old as human history, whether voluntary or forced upon people by famines, conquests and diverse types of persecutio Unfortunately, because of lack of precise information, the size and nature of such migrations are not exactly known

Some other type of migration:

  • Forced migration: Migratory movement in which an element of coercion exists, including threats to life and livelihood, whether arising from natural or man-made causes (e.g. movements of refugees and internally displaced persons as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects)”.
  • Circular migration: This is the fluid movement of people between countries, including temporary or long-term movement, which may be beneficial to all involved, if occurring voluntarily, and is linked to the labour needs of countries of origin and destination
  • Irregular/undocumented migration: Movement that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving countries. There is no clear or universally accepted definition of irregular migration. From the perspective of the destination countries, it is entry, stay or work in a country without the necessary authorization or documents required under immigration regulations.

History of migration:

  • The largest migration in history was the so-called Great Atlantic Migration from Europe to North America, the first major wave of which began in the 1840s with mass movements from Ireland and Germany.
  • In the 1880s a second and larger wave developed from eastern and southern Europe; between 1880 and 1910 some 17 million Europeans entered the United States.
  • The total number of Europeans reaching the United States amounted to 37 million between 1820 and 1980.
  • From 1801 to 1914 about 7.5 million migrants moved from European to Asiatic Russia (i.e., Siberia), and between World Wars I and II about 6 million more, not counting innumerable deportees to Soviet labour camps, voluntarily migrated there.
  • Since World War II the largest voluntary migrations have involved groups from developing countries moving to the industrialized nations
  • The largest mass expulsions have probably been those imposed by Nazi Germany, which deported 7–8 million persons during World War II (1939–45)
  • Largest migration in India and Pakistan border was seen during the time of independence
  • Parliament passed the Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation and Conditions of Service) Act 1979 specially to deal with malpractices associated with the recruitment and employment of workers who migrate across state boundaries. In practice, however, this act is overwhelmingly ignored by state government

Reasons for migration:

  • In the migration context, there are both push and pull factors with push factors being reasons why people would want to leave their home country and pull factors being reasons why people would want to come to a new country. In migration, push and pull factors can be economic, environmental, social and political. They include some of the following:
  • Safety Factors: Safety factors can cause danger to individuals, prompting them to migrate.
    • Persecution and discrimination based on nationality, race, religion, political beliefs, or membership status in a particular social group will prompt people to move large distances in search of a safer living location where they can have freedom over their lives.
    • Danger can be imposed upon individuals by something formal, like war, or informal, such as widespread gang activity.
  • Economic Factors: Economic migration, whether permanent or seasonal, is a commonly cited reason for migration.
    • In general, it is believed that in economic migration people move from poorer developing areas into richer areas where wages are higher and more jobs are available.
    • It is also common for people from rural areas to move to more competitive urban areas in order to find more opportunities.
  • Environmental Factors: Migration caused by environmental factors is increasingly involuntary.
    • Environmental factors cause displacement, or the forced movement of people by social or environmental factors.
    • Crop failure for example, often results in both food scarcity and a drop in agricultural jobs, prompting people to move to a place with better job opportunities and climate.
    • Pollution of water, air and soil in both urban and rural settings can also create a serious health risk to locals, forcing them to look for a better life for themselves and their children.
  • Social Factors: Social factors motivating migration grow from the human needs and desires to achieve a better quality of life.
    • Migrants often move to ensure better opportunities for themselves or their family, like sending their child to a better, safer school or finding a job that would have not only a sufficient salary, but also important benefits and career growth prospects.

Problem faced by migrant worker:

  • No demand for worker leads to no pennies
  • Irregular payment leads to debt on the worker
  • Cut in final payment are common
  • No proper accommodation are given to worker
  • No nutrient in food leads to hidden hunger among them
  • Children of migrant do not get access of proper education nor the migrant female worker get proper sanitary leads to many health issues
  • Many a time or usually the migrant workers are unable to cast their precious vote due to migration from their native place
  • Proving their identity is one of the core issues impoverished migrants face when they arrive in a new place, a problem that can persist for years or even decades after they migrate. Identity documentation that is authenticated by the state is indispensable for ensuring that a person has a secure citizenship status and can benet from the rights and protections that the state provides. The basic problem of establishing identity results in a loss of access to entitlements and social services. Lack of identification means migrants are not able to access provisions such as subsidized food, fuel, health services, or education that are meant the economically vulnerable sections of the population

Initiative taken by govt. for migrant worker:

  • Twenty lakh crore financial package under Aatm Nirbhar Bharat has been launched specifically to create employment opportunities, for migrant workers, workers of unorganized sector, strengthening of MSME Sector and promoting rural economy. It includes plethora of initiatives for all these sectors.
  • In order to provide minimum financial assistance to the workers through their EPF Account, Ministry of Labour & Employment under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana has permitted all the EPF members to withdraw 75% of their total provident fund deposited in their EPF Account. Till date, about Rs. 39,000/- crore have been withdrawn by the member of EPFO.
  • Atma Nirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rozgar Abhiyan: The scheme seeks to promote local entrepreneurship and create partnership with industrial associations to provide employment opportunities to 1.25 crore migrant workers who lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic. The state government has already mapped the skill of the workers so that they can be provided employment as per their expertise.
  • Atma Nirbhar Gujarat Sahay Yojana: For those who wish to avail guarantee-free loans of Rs 1 lakh from banks at 2 per cent annual interest. The state, with this scheme, aims to help small businessmen, skilled labours, workers, electricians, auto-rickshaw owners and others whose livelihood has been impacted by COVID 19.


Migration refers to the phenomenon of people crossing one administrative/political jurisdiction in a country to another in the same country, or another. Migration is as old as human civilization and has been a major contributor of social changes throughout history. For this reason, there is a need to understanding the migration process and the factors that motivate (or force) people to migrate. Thus, internal and international migration is classified into several categories based on various criteria.

Mains oriented question:

Covid-19 pandemic leads to the migration of poor migrant worker, what can be done by govt. to stop such movement in future in time of any pandemic also explain the issues with migrant worker?(200 words)