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

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The picture is for representation only. Credit: rohitgautamphotography.wordpress.com

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/IndiaSpend.org)

Next Story

By 2030, African Children to Make ‘Half of the World’s Poor’

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030

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Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
The United Nations reports more than a half million refugees have fled to neighboring countries to escape the ravages of war. Wikimedia Commons

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030, according to a new report.

The stark warning comes as more than 150 world leaders prepare to attend the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit in New York beginning Sept. 25 to work on tackling global poverty.

The United Nations has agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). No. 1 on the list is eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. But the world will fall well short of that target, according to the report by Save the Children and the Overseas Development Institute, which delivers a devastating verdict on global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty among children in Africa.

“On our projection, children in Africa will account for around 55% of all extreme poverty in the world by 2030,” said Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK.

An estimated 87 million African children will be born into poverty each year in the 2020s, according to the report, which also says about 40% of Africans still live on less than $1.90 a day.

Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
Children recovering from malnutrition play at the Children hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic. VOA

“On average, women are still having four to five children, and it’s the part of the world where poverty is coming down most slowly, partly because of slow growth but also because of very high levels of inequality,” Watkins said. “A child born into poverty faces greater risks of illiteracy; greater risks of mortality before the age of 5. They’re between two and three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday. They are far less likely to escape poverty themselves, which means that they will become the transmission mechanism for poverty to another generation.”

The report criticizes African governments for failing to develop coherent policies, and also warns that the IMF, the World Bank and other donors are failing in their response.

ALSO READ: World is Decades Behind Schedule to Achieve Ambitious Goals to Fight Poverty, Inequality and Other Ills

Watkins said dramatic changes in approach are urgently needed.

“Transferring more monetary resources to children who are living in poverty has to be part of the solution,” Watkins said. “But we also know that money is not enough. It’s critically important that these children get access to basic nutritional services, the basic health interventions, and the school systems that they need to escape poverty.”

The report warns that if poverty reduction targets are not met, the world will also fall short on other sustainable development goals in education, health and gender equality. (VOA)