Causes behind migration from Bihar

Arun Srivastava

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s emphasis not to consider "migration as an indicator of backwardness and poverty" is a shrewd tactics to hide behind the jargons to conceal his failure to empower the rural poor and ensure jobs to them during his 14 year rule.
No doubt, moving to other states in search for livelihood is the right of any Indian but the manner in which Bihar’s rural poor have been migrating clearly manifests the denial of their fundamental right to survive.
It is really sad that Nitish has resorted to falsehood when he said; “it is not any weakness or shortcoming, but shows hard work and merit instead because everybody has a right in the country and to travel to any part of it, seeking the best possible remuneration for their skills, which is also their constitutional right".
The migration rate has increased from 27.4 percent of the population in 1991 to 36 percent in 2011. The number of adult male migrants from urban Bihar increased from 17% in 1999-2000 to 29% in 2007-2008 whereas urban migration at the national level registered 1% decline (from 32% to 31%) during the same period. Urban migration trends in Bihar showed an increase among scheduled castes from 25.8% to 38.9%, OBCs from 31.5% to 43% and 'others' from 35.1% to 55.5%.
Though the political masters and ruling elites have been claiming at the top of their voice that the migration has been checked to a large extent, it is not the fact. That was for a small period, when the state had undertaken the job of repairs of the roads or construction of government buildings. They were, in fact, deliberately trying to create confusion. To stop migration permanently it is imperative that the rural poor must get agricultural job throughout the year, not for 100 days as under NREGA.
A person does not desert his home and hearth simply for the sake of free choice and enjoyment. There is always the case of exploitation, oppression and torture behind every migration. Migration is often the last resort to such people as they could not fight oppression and exploitation. It has been observed that most of the migrants borrow money at very high interest to meet their initial expenses, which further push them into poverty.
A study underlined that besides the feudal mode of agrarian relation and oppression, it is the government discrimination and exploitation that are primarily responsible for migration.
Unfortunately, migration has not at all been taken seriously by the government agencies. The semi-feudal and semi-colonial economy of Bihar with its skewed land distribution, low agricultural production, complete lack of opportunities to diversify, have resulted in low employment and livelihood opportunities for the poor, thereby increasing the incidences of seasonal migration. In the case of Bihar, poverty resulting from lack of employment opportunities and low wages have a telling effect on people’s migration.
The proportion of migrant workers to total workers increased from 15.7% in 1998-99 to 25.5% in 2009-10. The incidence of migration is higher for the backward districts of North Bihar, in comparison with the better off districts of south Bihar. Cultivation, construction and work in industry are the three main occupations, which engage more than half of the migrant workers from rural Bihar.
Over the past two to three decades migration has ceased to be an indicator of industrial development. There is hardly any difference between migration and displacement. In both instances people are pushed out of their homes on account of difficult living conditions. Bihari labourers are one of the largest migrant groups in Delhi.
When cheap labour itself becomes a kind of capital, the direction of its movement is to be determined amongst other things by the conditions for its replacement. ‘Migration’ from this perspective is no different from the movement of human capital, which today is described as human resources’. Studies show that though the Bihari migrant labourers are employed in a large variety of jobs which require specific skills, yet they are condemned to live in pathetic conditions. Even after working and living in Delhi for 10 years or more, a large number of them are deprived of even simple civic amenities such as safe drinking water.
It is usually argued that migration symbolises upward mobility, inherent growth and development. It is hard to deny this general concept. But at the same time it cannot be denied that the instance of increased migration is a negative point as this could well be described as distress migration. Some social activists hold the notion that as these occur only within the country they are not of distress in character.
Most of the labourers migrated out of Bihar due to threat to their lives and aggravating agrarian crisis. A look at the violent clashes taking place in rural Bihar for minimum wages or share cropping would make it explicit that labourers and rural poor are scared to face the landed gentry, who still practice the feudal mode in their personal lives. With the agrarian crisis acquiring a violent character, many opted out of farming and migrated.
Based on research conducted in 2009-10, the report states that 4.42 million people from Bihar migrate every year to various states of India and that migration has actually gone up. The concept of migration now connotes a much wider dimension and denotes a permanent shift. This nature of migration is perilously affecting the social and cultural understanding, relations and traditional norms. This is giving birth to a hybrid cultural population. In his desperation to seek livelihood, the individual stands completely isolated. (IPA)

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017