Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Circular Migration and Multi-locational Livelihood Strategies in Rural India


Other authors: 
and John Farrington (editors)

Focus country: 

Published by: 
Oxford University Press

Publisher town: 


The focus of this book is circular migration, defined as a temporary move from the normal place of residence for the purpose of employment. It includes case studies from some of the poorest and most deprived parts of India, as well as of socially marginalized groups from more prosperous areas, which show how important migration has become in sustaining, and in some cases improving, rural livelihoods. The case studies also underline the complexity of migration, especially when it overlaps with poverty. Migrant flows and labour markets are highly differentiated and segmented along caste, age and gender lines; moreover, the distinction between voluntary and forced migration is often blurred. For instance, while arrangements with labour intermediaries who give advances to migrants and their families may remind us of debt bondage, they may also result in greater economic gains in the long term. Similarly, migrants who move to escape social discrimination or political persecution may also be described as internally displaced persons.

The key arguments of this collection are four-fold. First, circular migration makes an important but underestimated contribution to the livelihoods of many rural people. Second, particularly through the construction sector, it contributes to India’s economic transformation more than politicians and policy makers are prepared to recognize. Third, government takes a generally negative view of migration, doing little to ease the lives of migrants at destination and concentrating efforts in source areas on the often inaccurate assumption that this will prevent migration. Fourth, official statistics neither collect nor present data in ways that show the actual magnitude of circular migration.

The introductory chapter by the editors develops the conceptual framework that focuses explicitly on the relationship between circular migration and livelihood diversification in the context of economic transformation. The next three chapters focus on the economic reasons and impacts of migration. Chapter 2 is based on an econometric analysis of village level studies data in Andhra Pradesh, exploring the ways in which circular migration is affected by climatic shocks. Chapters 3 and 4 describe the high levels of circular migration and commuting in six villages each in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, respectively. The next four chapters highlight other aspects of migration: Chapter 5 describes the role of social networks and power relations among migrants in Rajasthan; Chapter 6 explores how caste and age affect migrants’ experiences in Bihar, while Chapter 7 emphasizes how, in Jharkhand, youth migration is often determined by a desire to break free from restrictive social norms; and Chapter 8 examines how social identities and especially gender determine poor migrants’ experiences in Madhya Pradesh. The final chapters take a policy-focused approach, with Chapter 9 examining the impact of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act on migration in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Chapter 10, by the Aajeevika Bureau, one of the largest and most successful migrant support programmes in India, offers options for civil society organizations, the private sector, donors and the government to work together to support migrants and create awareness of their rights. Chapter 11 describes informal social protection mechanisms used by migrants’ relatives in West Bengal. Finally, the concluding chapter spells out the policy options available to promote the positive aspects of migration and minimize its negative consequences.

Available from: 
Published by Oxford University Press, New Delhi, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001, India; available from www.oup.com; price: US$ 59.95

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