Migrants & borders: My wishlist in a post-Covid-19 world
Geography and You|Issue 146, 2020
Former Professor of Economics and Education, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. bkhadria@gmail.com.
Binod Khadria
In the four and a half decades of my engagement with migration studies, rarely have I come across discourses adequately focused on migrants per se and contributions they and their families make towards the economy, polity and society. For international migration, this has been addressed at length in the World Migration Report 2020, for which I served as the co-editor and a co-author (IOM 2019; McAuliffe et al. 2019). Otherwise, most analyses have touched upon migrant contributions only tangentially and stereotypically in monetarily quantified costs and benefits that accrue to the home and host economies—through brain drain and transfers of skills, knowledge and technology, but most prominently in the form of remittances (Khadria 1999; Khadria 2020b).

For India, the top recipient country of remittances for several years, the latest World Bank estimate has been 83 billion USD in 2019, now projected to fall by 23 per cent due to the COVID-19 pandemic (World Bank Group 2020; TOI 2020). These studies, however, have not probed deeper into the dark sides of social costs borne by migrant workers in terms of self-deprivation for maximising their savings that are funnelled back home.

When it comes to internal migrants in India, data are grossly inadequate in shedding light on contributions migrants make to the economy and society, including remittances sent back home in the villages. Census after census, there is no new information on internal migration other than the stereotypically classified ‘causes of migration’—highest due to marriage for women and employment for men.

There is no scope to include external shocks like COVID-19 pandemic as a cause of migration or return; not to speak of a lesser crisis like ‘natural calamity’ that was included in the causes of migration in 1981 Census but replaced since 2001 by a cause termed as ‘moved at birth’.

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