India Migration Reader

Author:   I.S. Rajan
Publisher:   Routledge
Reviewer:   Tasha Agarwal
Designation:   Research Scholar, Ambedkar University, Delhi

Rajan, S. I. (Ed) (2017). India Migration Reader. Routledge, New York, 188 pages, ISBN 9781138219625

The book comes as a by-product of release of India Migration Report (IMR) and several annual reports on migration, in collaboration with CDS and Government of India. Owing to its immense popularity, it was decided to bring out the book containing chapters from IMR. These chapters cover wide range of issues concerning migration and development ranging from inter-state migration, international migration to diaspora settlements. The book contains 10 chapters on different themes from leading authors working in the area of migration studies across India.

The introductory chapter details out process and idea on how the book took its present shape from various IMRs. Five IMRs have been published till date and two chapters from each IMR has been transformed into 10 chapters of this book. The introductory chapter also brings forth the basic migration data which may provide a gist of the existing scenario of migration from various Indian states. 

The first chapter provides a brief review on the existing policies of government of India towards migration. Pointing out the loopholes, the author has suggested reforms which should be undertaken by the Government of India in order to make migration policies more inclusive and tap the opportunity for migration led growth. Considering that India is one of the largest migration sending countries in the world and having a large diversity of workforce, it is very important to have policies that are useful for better migration management.

The second chapter provides a brief on the critical issues concerning Indian diaspora communities. The author points out the grave issue of lack of effective data as well as methodology to measure the count of Diasporas in different countries. This inefficiency stems partly from the conceptual definition which has been designed to understand diaspora. The chapter has also touched upon the contribution of Diasporas via remittances, technology and knowledge transfer, investment etc. The author concludes the stance that the policy needs massive transformation to make it migrant friendly. Some of the suggestions provided by the author includes allowing of dual citizenship, establishing networks and contacts, understanding diaspora and capturing requisite data etc.

The third chapter looks at the migration debate through gender lens and discusses the complexities associated with conceptualizing female migration. Right from leaving their home to staying in the foreign land, the chapter discusses the issue of unequal access to resources, gendered division of work, health issues, unequal union rights, lack of access to legal help and trafficking of women. The author mentions the effect which female migration have, on family and economy. She further, draws policy recommendations in order to establish a ground for equal opportunity as well as welfare of the female migrants, both in origin and destination country.

Extending the debate further, Chapter 4 brings out how the policy treats men and women differently. The author has used the concept of social legitimacy to explain the categorization of migrant women with respect to risk involved. The chapter centers around important issues concerning female migration such as paternalistic attitude of state, sense of entitlement and negotiation at the origin country, lack of pre departure orientation, issue of visa trading by sponsor recruiter, strategies to restrict migration or nationalization of workforce etc. Having mentioned the issues, she brings out the role of civil society is promoting migration as well as keeping the migrants well informed, thereby ensuring their welfare.

The fifth chapter discusses the issues concerning migration and the importance of governing such human mobility.  The author specifically focuses on the need of adoption of Common International Framework for governing migration. He brings out three major constraints with regards to adoption of such framework, namely, lack of shared/common good, absence of reciprocity and the absence of hegemonic power to safeguard the regime. Further, he also discusses about the future of migration where he mentions that due to change in social, economic and political structure of the countries around the world, the trend of migration can be expected to be more stable by 2025.

The sixth chapter discusses about the localization policies adopted by Saudi Arabia to tackle increasing migration of low skilled labour from Kerala to Saudi Arabia, in response to the increasing youth unemployment of local population. Due to such policy, several manual jobs are left vacant since the Saudi youths are not willing to take such manual work. The chapter also sheds light on the future of immigration in the wake of such localization policies.  

The next four chapters of the book deals with various aspects of internal migration. Seventh chapter is based on elaborating the trend of internal migration in India. As against common belief, the author have brought forth that internal migration of women is more than that of men. However, such migration is not dominated by labour movement, rather the increased women migration majorly accounts for post marriage migration. The author has also correlated migration and development variables to check how different variables are correlated with the aspect of migration. By doing so, the author has numerically established various push and pull factors of migration.

Eighth chapter has presented the migration led political actions which were aimed towards ethnic cleansing. By using case studies of different Indian states, the authors have elaborated on how increased internal migration has led to formation of ideas and organizations fighting towards preservation of native culture, jobs and identity. According to the authors, such actions discourage migration and calls for reform in migration policies and effective implementation of Migration Workmen Act 1979.

Chaper 9 dwells into the practices adopted by state with regards to employment of laborers. It examines the shift in the role of state in fulfilling the needs of migrant workers working in informal sector. The chapter, predominantly, focuses on informalization of formal work and the consequence of such practices.

The final chapter, chapter 10, has elaborated on different phenomenon of internal migration by comparing it with international migration simultaneously.  It has detailed out on how the increased in supply of labour in different countries has led to increase in international migration, and how similar situation of increase in demand from urban centers attracts migrants from rural areas. Similarly, the role of remittances in international migration has been used to situate the role of remittances in internal migration, thereby, the author leads towards correlating migration with poverty. Keeping inclusive development at the center of discussion, the author emphasizes the importance of policy measures to tackle vulnerability and exploitation of migrant workers.

Overall, the book contains a rich collection of papers on different aspects of both internal and international migration. The selection of chapters for the formation of book has been very apt as it touches upon social, economic and political aspects of migration. The book seems to be well designed to be included as an introductory course related to migration and development. It is useful for the researchers in the field of migration study. Formation of this book seems to have provided easy access to scholars across the world for gaining access to IMR. The book could have further been enriched had there been some chapters on international comparison of migration to different countries, role of gender in internal migration, policy response of different countries in order to manage migration, comparison of skilled and unskilled migration from India etc. However, we can hope and expect these topics to emerge in another book under same series of South Asia Edition.   

Review by Tasha Agarwal, Research Scholar, Ambedkar University, Delhi. Email:


Publication Date:   Sunday, Apr 01, 2018
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