Gotta Keep on Movin’: July 2019 Redux

By Rohini, Priyansha and the IMN team

Last week, the new Indian Government, with a historical mandate, released both the Annual Budget, 2019 and the Economic Survey 2018–19. These documents establish the Government’s economic priorities for the next 5 years.

In this July 2019 Redux edition of Gotta Keep On Movin’, we examine what these two key documents mean for one of the largest and least discussed segments of the nation — migrants.

But before we proceed, two caveats:

1) Policymakers and politicians across India look at migration as something to be curtailed. They often see it as purely a symptom of rural distress and poverty. In fact, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (MGNREGA) explicitly aims to discourage rural migration. This assumption is important to keep in mind when analysing government policies in India, as it deeply colours their approach towards migration.

2) There is no migration policy in India. Specifically, there is no institutional framework or apparatus in place for internal migration. Thus any migration-related analysis of budgetary allocations and economic priorities is disparate in nature and involves piecing together different policy areas and sectors of the government.

The IMN Extra Podcast w/ Dr Binod Khadria

In this episode of IMN Extra, Varun (IMN Founder) is joined by renowned migration expert, Dr Binod Khadria (formerly Professor of Economics at JNU, Delhi). The issue of Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam (where Dr Khadria is from) and West Bengal is discussed extensively and many possible solutions (a rarity for this issue) are explored.

Produced by Nakul Aggarwal
Theme Track from Kenji Kawai’s Ghost In The Shell (Original Soundtrack)

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The migrant life cycle refers broadly to the stages in which migration typically occurs –
pre-departure: drivers of migration and preparation,
transit: recruitment and the journey process,
destination: employment, housing etc. and, finally,
return: migration back to source and reintegration.

Neither the budget nor the economic survey engage with any of these stages directly. But they do indirectly address issues related to the drivers of migration and integration of migrants at destination (especially in urban areas).

Drivers of Migration

From an extensive literature review of internal migration in India, we have isolated the following major drivers of internal migration in India:

  • Rural Livelihoods
  • Water Crisis
  • Health Facilities
  • Inadequate supply of Education and other essential services

While the Economic Survey aspires to “…improve the targeting of MGNREGA to genuine beneficiaries which can increase the demand for work from distressed workers…”, the Budget aims at rejuvenating the Scheme of Fund for Upgradation and Regeneration of Traditional Industries’ (SFURTI) for more effective rural livelihood generation.

To address the prevailing water crisis, the Jal Jeevan Mission under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation aims to work with state governments for ensuring adequate water supply to all households by 2024.

Schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Housing for All) and programs for 100% rural electrification and gas connections by 2022 aim to improve rural infrastructure and services. Budget schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and UDAN are slated to boost regional connectivity, particularly in small town India (where many migrants come from and go to). The PMGSY which aims to upgrade over 1,00,000 km of road in the next 3 years can also have major implications for rural out migration.

Increased investment in railways infrastructure will also have an impact on easier mobility. However, the proposed model of development — public private partnerships — can result in higher prices, making migration prohibitively expensive.

Relevant Policy Areas for the Integration of Migrants in India

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Integration of Migrants

The biggest win is the push for ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ for food insecure migrant families living outside their state.

In addition, the Budget proposal to change the current rental framework and implement a Model Tenancy Law will have far reaching impacts for internal migrants’ life at destination. The PM Awas Yojana (Housing for All) also has potential to impact migrant housing choices at destination.

The Budget also proposes to streamline multiple different labour laws into 4 codes. By doing so, the Finance Ministry hopes to “ensure that process of registration and filing of returns will get standardized and streamlined” with lesser potential for disputes with a standardised set of labour definitions. This move to rationalise over a century of labour legislation into 4 codes is a revolutionary step, however, its implications on migrant workers (and their households) needs careful examination.

The move has been opposed by workers’ groups across the country, particularly the National Campaign Committee for Construction Workers, because it will repeal the BOCW Act which provides vital social security, insurance, and pension schemes to registered construction workers.

The Economic Survey highlights that different statutory minimum wage rates for the same occupation in different states, combined with the wide range between the lowest and highest minimum wages triggers migration from the lower wage regions/state. It proposes a nationwide floor for minimum wage level in India as a remedy.


10 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are directly linked to migration. While the Budget 2019 addresses several aspects of the SDGs indirectly, none of the 17 goals are mentioned explicitly.

Below is a summary of the SDGs that are relevant to migration and are implicitly covered in the Budget 2019:

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India Migration Now

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Thank you for reading.

The IMN Team

  • The author are researchers at India Migration Now, a migration data, policy and research agency based in Mumbai.
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