Distress migration: rural to urban, poor state to rich state

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In the general election this year, India’s Congress Party benefited handsomely from a programme called “NREGA”, which is designed to help needy households in rural areas. Implementation started in 2005. In an interview, development economist K. P. Kannan explained what this programme is about.

[ Interview mit K. P. Kannan ]

What is the basic idea of NREGA?

The basic idea of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 – popularly known as NREGA – is to entitle all households in rural areas to up to 100 days of manual work per year at the stipulated legal minimum wage prevalent in their particular region. Sometimes Indian media also use the term NREGS, with ‘S’ standing for scheme. Both terms mean the same, however.  […]

Who are the beneficiaries of NREGA?

The beneficiaries are, mostly, the landless poor in rural areas. These people struggle to find regular employment, so they have to accept whatever work comes by, even if it is at very low wages. There is a high correlation between this group with India’s scheduled castes, who were formerly known as “untouchables”, and scheduled tribes, who were outside mainstream society. However there are also sizeable sections of such workers who belong to the intermediate castes. A positive and important side-effect of NREGA is the improvement of rural infrastructures, a worthy goal in its own right.
[…]

At the same time there should be legal entitlements to a national minimum wage along with NREGA. Education and skill formation is crucial to enable the working poor to earn an income to take care of their basic needs. Instead of chasing aggregate economic growth, the central government should focus on generating employment that will ensure decent work conditions and fair wages.

I have read that NREGA has helped to stem internal migration, particularly from poverty- and conflict-ridden Bihar. Is that so?
Yes, it is indeed the case, going by the reports of both the media and civil-society organisations. Much of rural to urban – or poor state to rich state – migration in India is distress migration. NREGA seems to have helped to reduce such migration, which is yet another proof of just how important it is to create regular employment opportunities in the local economy.

Why is guaranteed employment particularly important in rural areas?

India is, in a sense, a transitional economy. Only around 20 % of income is generated in agriculture. Nonetheless, 57 % of employment is still in agriculture. Rural people depend on agriculture and the primary sector in general. The main problem is that agriculture and other primary activities are mostly, if not entirely, seasonal in character. Employment, however, has to be provided during lean seasons too, which is why employment guarantees matter very much. […]

Questions by Hans Dembowski.

Source: D+C 2009/12 – Tribune – Kannan: Employment guarantees are boosting rural development in India – Development and Cooperation – International Journal.
Address : http://www.dandc.eu/articles/162560/index.en.shtml
Date Visited: Wed Apr 18 2012 10:07:00 GMT+0200 (CEST)

“Tribal men and women mix freely, but with respect for each other [but] caste Hindu society in India is so convinced of its own superiority that it never stops to consider the nature of social organisation among tribal people. In fact it is one of the signs of the ‘educated’ barbarian of today that he cannot appreciate the qualities of people in any way different from himself – in looks or clothes, customs or rituals.” – Guest Column in India Today >>

Image © The Hindu for “The Adivasi in the mirror: The lynching of Madhu in Kerala must shock our conscience into recognising the dispossession of India’s tribals” by Nissim Mannathukkaren >>

Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” | Learn more about India’s caste system and the effects of “casteism” on tribal communities >>

“The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ needs to be challenged not just because Adivasi culture is being crushed, but also because Adivasi values and ways of life offer insights that the ‘mainstream’ needs. If we are to halt the destruction of ecosystems, we need to understand how closely biodiversity and cultural diversity are intertwined. Perhaps it is time to reverse the gaze and begin to learn afresh from Adivasis.” – Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta in “Are mega residential schools wiping out India’s Adivasi culture?” (The Hindu, 13 February 2021) | More about the role of tribal communities in preserving India’s biodiversity and ethnobotany >>

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