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How low spending on infrastructure results in large-scale distress migration

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Distress migration is one of serious issues affecting India’s Aam Aadmi. Poverty, lack of job opportunities, low-income, search for better living conditions, etc. among the many reasons that force people to leave their native villages and towns and migrate into other states. Here is an article, which explores how a state’s investment on infrastructure projects affects distress migration.

By Himadri Ghosh

Raju Rai was 17 when his mother was diagnosed with cancer, forcing him to leave his village in Jharkhand’s overwhelmingly rural Jamtara district in search of a livelihood. He’s 22 now and earns Rs 10,000 ($145) a month, painting buildings in Bangalore, about 1,980 km to the southwest.

“As a gift, God gave us poverty,” said the lean, unsmiling young man, whose chief ambition is to save enough money, find his sister a “good man” and “get her married with Dhoom-Dham (in style)”.

How infrastructure pending affects distress migration

Rai’s story is common among many of the 307 million Indians who report themselves to be migrants by place of birth, according the 2001 census report (the 2011 data is not final).

Of these, 268 million (85 percent) migrated within their state, 41 million (13 percent) migrated to another state and 5.1 million (1.6 percent) left India.

Men primarily migrated long-distance as migrant labor to earn more money – marriage was a prime reason for women – and an IndiaSpend analysis found that migration largely correlates with a state’s investment in infrastructure.

States with lower per capita infrastructure spending typically – but not always – have lower per capita incomes, sparking large migrations, according to finance ministry data.

Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh are among the states with lower infrastructure spending and low per capita incomes.

High infrastructure spending states like Goa, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Haryana and Gujarat also have higher per capita incomes.

So, India is witnessing wide variations in per capita income and growing levels of distress migration from low-income states, experts said.

“Such large flows of migration from village to city have unsettling political and economic effects,” said Sukumar Muralidharan, a felow at the Shimla-based Indian Institute of Advanced Study, a think-tank run by the ministry of human resource development.

Infrastructure is important, but there are other reasons

While infrastructure appears to be the overwhelming link between per capita income and migration, there are important exceptions.

Consider India’s richest state, Goa, which has a per capita income of Rs 224,138 ($3,300), the same as Indonesia ($3,491) and Ukraine ($3,082).

Goa’s per capita infrastructure spending is the highest in India, Rs 36,516. Haryana and Maharashtra stand second and third, respectively, in per capita income, and also in per capita spending on infrastructure.

Maharashtra and Delhi have high in-migration rates, accounting for 16.4 percent and 11.6 percent of the country’s total migration. The large inflow of people into states like Maharashtra (nearly 8 million in 2001) and Delhi (over five-and-a-half million in 2001) is because of the opportunities they offer.

Now consider Bihar, with a per capita income of Rs.31,199 ($589), and Uttar Pradesh’s Rs.36,250, ($534), which are less than Mali ($704) and Guinea ($539).

Bihar spends Rs 13,139 per capita on infrastructure and Uttar Pradesh Rs 9,793.

Compared to Maharashtra and Delhi, the inflow of people to states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh is limited: Only 1,794,219 and 2,972,111 people migrated to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh In 2001.

The exceptions are evident in prosperous states with low infrastructure spending, such as Punjab and Kerala, and low-income states with relatively higher per capita infrastructure spending, such as Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh.

The precise reasons are not clear, but uneven geography, diverse demography, culture and politics could be reasons for the breaks in pattern, experts said. Attention to the social sector, as in Kerala, is an explanation.

Although the responsibility for promoting equity and equitable development is shifting to the states, as IndiaSpend has reported, the Centre has a role, said Ajitava Raychaudhuri, professor of economics at Jadavpur University. “States need pragmatic planning,” he said. “Equity across states needs focused intervention from the Central government.”

The importance of backward regions, under-invested sectors and local jobs

In the power sector, the thumb-rule is that every rupee invested in generation should be backed by an equivalent sum invested in transmission and distribution, said IIAS’ Muralidharan.

“As against this 1:1 ratio, the record in India has been closer to 8:2,” he said.

Unplanned investment can be as responsible as low investment for disparities, some argue.

Samantak Das, chief economist and national director at Knight Frank India, a global real estate consultancy, explained that vote bank politics is causing disparities as people from backward states depend more on their leaders, and leaders of all hues take advantage to translate this into votes.

“We need evenly-distributed, strategically-planned infrastructure in the country. We have to have social infrastructure, physical infrastructure because infrastructure has a high positive rub-off effect on growth,” Das added.

Raychaudhuri said the future can be secure only if capital expenditure and environmental planning are increased simultaneously.

The rural-urban divide-and, migration-can be addressed by encouraging micro, small and medium enterprises locally.

As evidence grows that the job-creating potential of large industry is falling in India, migration appears to be growing.

India’s urban population has grown faster than its rural population since the last Census, according to provisional 2011 census data.

The proportion of migrants in the urban population was 35% in 2007-08, when measured by the National Sample Survey.

This intermingling plays out in growing reports of conflicts with outsiders in various Indian states.

“Migrations lead to ethnic and cultural stereotyping and intolerance towards people seen as different due to competitive politics,” Muralidharan said.

Since infrastructure spending is a major factor in economic growth, it is important that related budgetary allocations rise to India’s more backward states, particularly their backward regions, said Sidhartha Mitra, head of the economics department at Jadavpur University.

The exceptions to the rule indicate, he said, that social-sector spending is equally important. (IANS/

Next Story

Lack of Infrastructure Deterring Tourists from Visiting Several Significant Historical Monuments in Agra

While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed the district administration to complete patch work and road repairs

Infrastructure, Tourists, Historical
An estimated 35,000 tourists visited the Taj on Saturday, said data on the ASI website. Pixabay

Lack of infrastructure and civic amenities are deterring tourists from visiting several significant historical monuments in Agra, the city immortalised by the Taj Mahal, say a group of local industry leaders.

Though the number of tourists at the historical monuments in Agra show an encouraging trend, hoteliers and travel agents complain of pathetic lack of civic amenities.

“Tourists generally avoid visiting other monuments in the city after a ‘darshan’ (seeing) of the Taj Mahal, because they are too scared of bumpy roads,” tourist guide Ved Gautam said.

An estimated 35,000 tourists visited the Taj on Saturday, said data on the ASI website.

Infrastructure, Tourists, Historical
Though the number of tourists at the historical monuments in Agra show an encouraging trend, hoteliers and travel agents complain of pathetic lack of civic amenities. Pixabay

While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed the district administration to complete patch work and road repairs within a fortnight, the Agra Municipal Corporation, is still dragging its feet.

“To an outsider, Agra appears, as if it’s ravaged by a war since most roads have developed potholes and cracks after the monsoon rains. The continuous digging by one government department or the other not only raises a lot of dust but makes mobility difficult,” a local resident said.

“The city administration is yet to wake up to repair and clean up the roads in the city which have not only become a safety hazard but also assault the aesthetics,” complains hotelier Surendra Sharma.

A new tourist season has begun, and the number of vehicles bringing in tourists via the Yamuna Expressway or the Agra-Lucknow Expressway, have gone up appreciably due to the long holiday interval.

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The local tourism industry is alarmed at the lack of concern and general apathy towards streamlining vital civic amenities.

“When tourists, particularly those from the developed world, arrive in Agra, they are aghast at the dismal conditions. This results in short visits, same-day return by most visitors,” says President of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, Rakesh Chauhan.

The rains have exposed the claims of the city administration of having patched up or filled all potholes and completed repair work on most roads.

The municipal corporation commissioner Arun Prakash says filling of potholes is continuing. Mayor Navin Jain has assured citizens that prompt remedial measures would be taken to ensure safe mobility. Even during the festival season, nothing was being done. Many stretches still require patchwork treatment to avoid accidents,” said Pandit Jugal Kishor.

Infrastructure, Tourists, Historical
Tourists generally avoid visiting other monuments in the city after a ‘darshan’ (seeing) of the Taj Mahal, because they are too scared of bumpy roads, Pixabay

The city police has failed to demolish encroachments around monuments.

“All they do is to send notices. For want of police force, no action to evict illegal occupants is possible. You also need political will,” Goswami Nandan Shrotriya of Yamuna Kinara Road said.

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The city appears in shambles, with heaps of garbage dumped along railway tracks, the dry Yamuna river bed and pollution, but the official agencies entrusted with the task of transforming Agra into a smart city dry continue to show no urgency. (IANS)