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The Political Economy of Migrant Labour

Shankar Gopalakrishnan (Author) Priya Sreenivasa (Author)
Synopsis Throughout large parts of rural India, among a large part of our adult population, employment and work means leaving their homes: forever, for years, or seasonally every year. For many adivasis and Dalits in particular, migration has long been a central livelihood strategy. While no one, including the government, has any figures for overall migration, estimates say that around one to there crore people engage in seasonal migration alone every year.

Yet, despite such a central place for migration in people’s livelihoods and in the economy of the country, there is a surprising lack of information, policies and political focus on the issue. Across India's political spectrum, most forces share the assumption that migration is an "aberration", a problem created by a lack of livelihoods in rural areas. In this view, migration is something to be stopped, a social "evil" that can be eradicated if only sufficient steps are taken to improve the situation in agriculture.

The result is that few in India have engages with migration as a political phenomenon. Mass movements tend to ignore it in their politics and demands; the state identifies it as a problem, like bonded labour, that is expected to "go away" if all policies are properly implemented; political parties also maintain their silence on the issue, with migration becoming a political battleground only for those who attack migrants from right wing (such as the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the BJP’s campaign against "Bangladeshi" migrants).

But migration in fact plays a central role in India's society and economy, a role that is increasing. Directly or indirectly, many economic activities depend on migrant labour, and in turn its importance as an income source is only rising. This booklet attempts to look at phenomenon and to understand migrant labour as a part of India’s economy. We argue that migration is no aberration, but the result of changes that have transformed large parts of rural India.
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Bibliographic information

Title The Political Economy of Migrant Labour
Format Softcover
Date published: 09.09.2009
Edition 1st ed.
Publisher Aakar Books
Language: English
isbn 9789350020111
length 56p., Tables; Bibliography; 22cm.