A large part of the Indian economy is based on the informal sector with informal labour or employment functioning as its base. With increased access to transportation and communication coupled with an increasing demand for a greater labour force in these sectors has shifted labour away from agriculture and towards industry and manufacturing. The concentration of industries and manufacturing units in certain parts of the country has further led to the rise of labour migration. Apart from this, the concentration of educational opportunities in prime cities and relocation needs owing to social factors such as marriage have also contributed to inter and intra-state migration in India.
The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the extent and scale of migrant labour in India and their plight. According to a research paper published in 2021, nearly four crore migrant labourers were affected by the COVID-19 lockdown in some form. Anywhere between 50,000 to 60,000 migrant workers moved back to their native places within a few days of the lockdown. Job loss due to the shutdown, cash crunch and fear of the disease exasperated an already fragile situation. The above developments call for a more nuanced understanding of the nature of the migrant population in India, difficulties faced by them and what can be done to address their concerns. We take a look at the major domestic migration trends in India, the problems faced by migrants, and what can be done to make sure the benefits they give to the economy through their contributions go back to them in some form.