Saturday, February 12, 2011

Census 2011 and counting of India's poor migrants

Umi Daniel

India has begun one of its mammoth census operations to count its citizens. The census operation has been relentlessly and ritualistically happening since 1872. The mandate for 2011 Census is to count its 1.17 billion citizens’s living in rural, urban and difficult places. The urban homeless people too are going to be counted on 28th evening. Last ten years, India has seen a dramatic increase of population and the mobility of people has also increased due to opening up newer frontiers of employment and opportunities. Mostly our cities started growing on a rapid scale with newer infrastructure and construction booming. The cross border movement of people from rural to district, and from one state to another state and in some cases international migration has substantially gone up.

During 2001 census, migrant people constitute 30% of India’s population with 307 million with male migrant 90 million and women constitute staggering 216 million. Most of the women migration was registered under the category of intra-district migration which is 139 million. It outlines a significant number of women movements from their place of birth to other locations because of marriage. However, the inter-state migration reported during 2001 was 42 million and out of which men constitute 19 million and women 22 million. In both of the situation, the mobility of women was higher than male.

When we look at the same for Orissa, the total migrant during 2001 was 10.8 million. Out of which women constitute 80% of the total migration at 8.4 million. The large women migration is reported within intra-district movement which is 6.4 million. However the inter-state migration in 2001 census was reported as 0.6 million and here too the women outnumber male with 60% and the male migration was 40%. If one closely examines the 2001 census in relation to migration, it shows the trend of women mobility is more than the male. Interestingly, out of the factors like, education, employment, business, moved after birth & marriage. The number of people under marriage was 20% followed by employment which is more than 10%. However, it is quite disturbing to note the high women migration patterns being reported in the Census 2001. The actual reason of such high migration is yet to be established. The mystery can only be solved through an in-depth analysis of the migration pattern, cause and effect of women migration.

On the other hand, some micro studies and estimates pertaining to inter-state migration suggest a different story. In Orissa the out migration of labourers to other States are more in comparison to the figure stated in 2001 census. Interstingly, migrant Oriya labourers in Surat only constitute 0.8 million, and a conservative estimate of migration poor people from south, north, western and the central region of Orissa is estimated to be 1.5 million. Today, the pattern of employment opportunity for the migrants labourers are mostly available in informal sectors and the habitation and worksites are located in far flung places in urban suburbs or outskirts. The high economic growth cities of Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Surat, Kerala and neighboring state such as Raipur, Vishakapatnam and mining rich regions of Jharkhand has been the major hub for Oriya migrant labourers. Sectors like, construction, textile, mining, brick kiln, poultry, plantation, agriculture, stone quarries, cotton ginning, apparel, rubber plantations have been the favorite employments providers for the migrant people.

A cursory observation of the migration enumeration of 2001 suggest that the migration information could have been collected from the urban migrants who were quite accessible for survey and the poor migrant may have been excluded due to their location disadvantage, remoteness and unclassified habitations. And, it is quite challenging for the census 2011 to reach out such people and get them counted.

On the other hand, the census has made elaborate provision for counting of poor people who live on the street and unidentified location in urban locations which is a welcome step. However, the time allocated to do the enumeration seems not adequate. The census will count the poor and homeless people for couple of hours on the last day of the census, I,e on 28th February. The metro cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai followed by tier II and tier III cities is today thriving with people living on pavement and street. A couple hour devoted for their enumeration seems less and inadequate and the enumeration will exclude these people who are yet to considered as urban poor.

For inter-state migrants, the census operation should create more collaborative process among the Census Directorate of various States and bring in stake holders like labour unions, student volunteers , Aactivist and civil society organization to help the census personnel to help and locate the migrant and get them counted. The mass media life FM radio and mobile telephone can be a useful tool to reach out to the migrants for their enumeration.

the migrant labourers are often excluded from various survey and enumeration simply because of non conformity of their seasonality of migration and timing of the survey. In coming days, the distress migration and opportunity migration is going to be a big challenge for the State to manage and monitor. The Census 2011 database on the poor migrants can provide a lot of insight for planning and protecting the interest of the hapless people.

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