Des­ti­na­tion Bi­har

Mi­gra­tion trends in Bi­har are chang­ing, caus­ing labour short­age in sev­eral states. A few stud­ies in­ves­ti­gate the rea­sons and pat­terns


NAND­LAL YADAV has no clue about his date or year of birth.All he re­mem­bers is that as a child he used to take a train to Pun­jab along with his fa­ther and mother and re­turn to his vil­lage in Mad­hep­ura in Bi­har dur­ing the fes­ti­val of Ch­hatth. Nand­lal cal­cu­lates that he worked in Pun­jab for nearly 20 years and then in Delhi for 15 years. “It is for the first time that I am work­ing in Patna, ”he says.

Nand­lal’s case is not iso­lated. Me­dia re­ports state that mi­gra­tion from Bi­har has de­clined, re­sult­ing in acute short­age of labour­ers in Delhi, Pun­jab, Ma­ha­rash­tra, West Ben­gal and other states.The is­sue was first high­lighted in 2012 when the Bi­har gov­ern­ment’s labour depart­ment claimed that mi­gra­tion from the state had dropped by 35-40 per cent be­tween 2008 and 2012.The depart­ment said that 1.5-2 mil­lion labour­ers who would ear­lier mi­grate to other states ev­ery year are now find­ing jobs in Bi­har.

Large-scale in­fra­struc­ture projects in Bi­har in­creased job op­por­tu­ni­ties for skilled and un­skilled labour­ers and this was the rea­son be­hind the de­cline in mi­gra­tion, the gov­ern­ment said. The claim is not with­out ba­sis. Ac­cord­ing to the Bi­har De­vel­op­ment Re­port 2013-14,the state has seen a growth of 14.15 per cent in in­fra­struc­ture since 2009. In­fra­struc­ture projects such as con­struc­tion of roads, bridges and build­ings have con­trib­uted to around 50 per cent of the eco­nomic growth in the state, says the state’s Eco­nomic Survey 2012-13 (see ` Gen­er­at­ing jobs' on p23).

Though only 11.3 per cent of the state is ur­banised, mega bridges and na­tional high­ways have at­tracted mi­grant labour­ers in large num­bers, says In­dra­jit Roy, re­search fel­low with the Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment, Univer­sity of Ox­ford. “Labour­ers from Bi­har were work­ing in ci­ties like Delhi and Gur­gaon.The cost of liv­ing is

high in th­ese ci­ties. When sim­i­lar in­fra­struc­ture growth started hap­pen­ing in Bi­har, labour­ers started to mi­grate within the state,” he says. How­ever, Roy claims that mi­gra­tion has not stopped but be­come in­ward rather than out­ward. He says un­skilled labour­ers from ru­ral Bi­har are mov­ing to ur­ban ci­ties such as Patna, Muzaf­farpur and Bha­galpur, rather than mi­grat­ing to other states.

The trend of ru­ral to ur­ban mi­gra­tion is sup­ported by Cen­sus 2011 data which says that be­tween 2001 and 2010 ur­ban pop­u­la­tion in In­dia in­creased by 91 mil­lion while ru­ral pop­u­la­tion in­creased by 90.4 mil­lion. This is the first time that the growth in ur­ban pop­u­la­tion has been more than the growth in ru­ral pop­u­la­tion. The data also sug­gests the flight of mi­grant labour­ers from the agri­cul­ture sec­tor to in­dus­trial sec­tor. In Bi­har, the ur­ban pop­u­la­tion in­cresed by 11.29 per cent be­tween 2001 and 2010.

Other fac­tors at play

Roy says that dis­mal growth of agri­cul­ture in Bi­har (3.5 per cent dur­ing 2012-13) and mech­a­ni­sa­tion of farm­ing in Pun­jab have forced Bi­hari labour­ers to seek jobs in the con­struc­tion sec­tor within the state. The point is echoed by D M Di­wakar, di­rec­tor of A N Sinha In­sti­tute of So­cial Sciences, Patna. “Ear­lier, labour­ers would mi­grate to Pun­jab ON AN av­er­age, 500 km of roads are be­ing con­structed ev­ery year in Bi­har. In 2012-13, more than 466 km of Na­tional High­way was con­structed and work on another 1,012 km is go­ing on. Of­fi­cial data shows that Bi­har com­pleted 205 km of Golden Quadri­lat­eral in 2013-14 and 488 km of East West Cor­ri­dor in 2012-13.

Bi­har has con­structed 1,671 bridges be­tween 2005 and 2014 un­der the Chief Min­is­ter Bridge Pro­gramme. Th­ese projects have gen­er­ated more than 10,000 jobs for both skilled and un­skilled labour­ers. The per capita in­come of the state has dou­bled in the past five years, from ` 13,728 to ` 28,317. for the en­tire har­vest sea­son—from sow­ing the seeds to reap­ing the crop. Now it is limited to the sow­ing sea­son. Reap­ing is done us­ing har­vest­ing ma­chines, ”says Di­wakar.

There is another fac­tor be­hind mi­gra­tion within the state. Ac­cord­ing to a study by New Delhi-based In­sti­tute of So­cial Sciences, peo­ple from lower castes mi­grate to ci­ties to avoid ex­ploita­tion and abuse at the hands of the higher castes.The study, ti­tled “Why I left my vil­lage: A study on mi­gra­tion from ru­ral Bi­har”, was pub­lished in 2012.

Counter view

The de­cline in the num­ber of mi­grant farm labour­ers to Pun­jab does not mean that mi­gra­tion from Bi­har has gone down. It has only shifted from the farm­ing sec­tor to the in­dus­trial sec­tor, says a re­port by Girish Kumar and Pranab Ban­erji from New Del­hibased In­dian In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion. It claims 4.42 mil­lion peo­ple from Bi­har mi­grate ev­ery year to var­i­ous states of In­dia and the mi­gra­tion has ac­tu­ally gone up.The re­search, ti­tled “A study of Bi­hari mi­grant labour­ers: In­ci­dence, Causes and Reme­dies”, says the pre­ferred des­ti­na­tions of Bi­hari work­ers have shifted from Pun­jab to in­dus­tri­alised states such as Delhi, Ma­ha­rash­tra and Gu­jarat. It claims Bi­hari labour­ers who now mi­grate to Pun­jab pre­fer in­dus­trial towns such as Ludhiana and Ja­land­har rather than agri­cul­tural towns.The

"Labour­ers from Bi­har who now mi­grate to Pun­jab pre­fer in­dus­trial towns such as Ludhiana and Ja­land­har rather than agri­cul­tural towns"

re­search was con­ducted in 2009-10.

There are re­searchers who say mi­gra­tion trends are not so sim­ple to ex­plain. Di­wakar ar­gues that 11.3 per cent of ur­banised ar­eas are not enough to pro­vide jobs to 5 mil­lion mi­grant work­ers. Apart from this, road con­struc­tion in Bi­har is mostly be­ing done by global firms that use ma­chines, he says.

San­jay Kumar, sec­re­tary in the state’s labour depart­ment, does not have a clear an­swer on the state of mi­gra­tion. When asked if the num­ber of mi­grant labour­ers from Bi­har has come down or if the state is wit­ness­ing in­ward mi­gra­tion, he replied, “It’s tough to say. In Bi­har, we are still bat­tling with pri­mary data. There had been many re­searches on mi­gra­tion in the state but they are all snap­shots of a clus­ter of dis­tricts.” By “pri­mary data” Kumar means that un­skilled labour­ers like Nand­lal need a birth cer­tifi­cate and an ad­dress proof to make them part of of­fi­cial sur­veys. Gov­ern­ment and re­searchers are still wait­ing for Na­tional Sam­ple Survey and Cen­sus 2011 data on mi­gra­tion to bet­ter un­der­stand trends.

Bi­har wit­nessed a growth rate of 14.5 per cent in in­fra­struc­ture be­tween 2009 and 2014. This cre­ated jobs for labour­ers in the state and re­duced mi­gra­tion

Ear­lier, labour­ers mi­grated to Pun­jab for the en­tire har­vest­ing sea­son. But mech­a­ni­sa­tion of agri­cul­ture

has limited their work to


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